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Thousands more sex offenders, domestic abusers and shoplifters will be let off with police written warnings in new SNP soft-touch justice scandal
- More than 100,000 offenders have escaped prosecution
- Police warnings were introduced in 2016 to target ‘very minor offences’
Thousands more sex offenders, domestic abusers and shoplifters will get off with a ‘slap on the wrist’ under fresh plans to expand Police Scotland’s use of ‘soft touch’ written warnings.
More than 100,000 offenders have been handed warning letters instead of facing prosecution and criminal charges over the past five years.
Serious concerns have been raised that they are being issued for high-level offending including sex and drug crimes – despite only being introduced to tackle low-level crimes such as urinating in public or vandalism.
Now, in a move that has prompted accusations of running a ‘parallel system of justice’ alongside the courts, Police Scotland is looking to expand its use of controversial written warnings.
A spokesman confirmed: ‘Police Scotland is reviewing how to make the best and appropriate use of direct measures such as recorded police warnings (RPWs) and fixed penalty notices.
‘These can provide an intervention mechanism which is timely, proportionate and gives officers the ability to exercise their professional discretion.’ Last night
Russell Findlay said it has emerged RWP’s are being used in response to a wide range of serious crime, including violence, fraud and sex offences.
Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay said the SNP government had originally claimed RPWs would only be issued for ‘very minor offences’.
He added: ‘Now it has emerged they are being used in response to a wide range of serious crime, including violence, fraud and sex offences.
‘This suggests that, as well as creating a parallel system of secret justice and misleading the public, the SNP have effectively decriminalised shoplifting by stealth. The SNP must be honest with the public about what is going on and give our police the resources they need to keep people safe.’
RPWs were introduced in 2016 to deal with low-level crimes without having to involve the Crown Office and were said by Police Scotland to provide a ‘swifter, more effective and proportionate way of dealing with low-level offences’. RPWs let officers close thousands of cases by offering written advice rather than making a report to the Procurator Fiscal.
The rules governing them remain confidential, with police saying that making the guidelines public would allow ‘offenders to circumvent the law’. It is generally understood that the handing out of RPWs is up to the individual officer’s discretion.
Accepting an RPW is not an admission of guilt and the warning is not recorded as a conviction, although details are held for two years and can be taken into account in any future dealings with police.
Concerns have been raised as RPWs are increasingly used for more serious offences.
In 2020-21 – the last year for which there is data – 6,448 RPWs were issued for drug crimes, including possession of Class A substances. There were also 1,908 for common assaults, 318 for fraud, 25 for fireraising and 20 for sex crimes.
Other controversial ‘soft-touch’ measures being used include fiscal fines, which range from £30 to £500, while ‘diversion’ from prosecution means offenders can be spared legal action in favour of consultations with social workers.
Concern over the use of RPWs and diversion from prosecution comes as Police Scotland says it will not investigate some minor crimes as part of a pilot project in the North East of Scotland.
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