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Scotland: Police Chief calls for radical overhaul of community sentences

19th February 2010

In an article in today's Herald Scotland, Chief Reporter Lucy Adams reports that chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, David Strang, is calling for a radical change in way the system as a whole works "to prevent crime rather than simply mop up the aftermath."

Currently, a controversial Criminal Justice Bill is going through the Scottish Parliament calling for a presumption against sentences of six months or less.

According to the article, the police chief states: “It is about taking a longer-term view. If you cut your arm and put a plaster on it, but the bleeding doesn’t stop, the answer is not to cut your arm off. Just because one thing does not work it does not justify sending people to prison, because that does not work either.

Crime rates are falling in Scotland and should they continue to fall, and fewer people are sent to prison, it could create a ­"virtuous circle rather than the current vicious one spun by alcohol and violence."

He also suggests that the budget for criminal justice could ultimately be cut, citing the position in Scotland’s Choice, the report from the Scottish Prisons Commission.

“If the prevention approach is successful and crime continues to fall then an inevitable con­clusion would be to spend less of taxpayer’s money on criminal justice... This is about an incremental shift.”

Resources and interventions should instead be focused on helping children and parents at a much earlier stage in their lives: “We should be investing much more in intervening earlier rather than waiting until later and shrugging our shoulders and saying ‘well, that was expected’.

“We need to take a longer-term view and be more creative in how we prevent it. It is about trying to get a culture change which says the police can do a lot more than react. We can prevent.”

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