Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Law & Order : Crown Office should pay for Police time spent at court

The Scottish Police Federation’s Chair, Norrie Flowers, has called for the Crown Office to pay for the time Police Officers spend at court. (A reasonable proposition, considering the Crown Office often waste plenty time themselves – Ed)

The Herald reports :

Call for Crown to pay for ‘wasted’ police time at court

LUCY ADAMS, Chief Reporter April 22 2009

The chair of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents more than 15,000 rank and file officers, has called for the Crown Office to pay for police time at court to curb the amount of man hours and money currently "wasted".

In his final speech to the federation's annual conference in Peebles, Norrie Flowers, chairman of the SPF, told the Justice Secretary that little has improved in this regard since 1977 and that hundreds of officers are called to court daily only to be told that they are not required.

"Consecutive governments have been either unable or unwilling to address this problem," said Mr Flowers. "To be perfectly blunt, this is communities being denied the services of hundreds of police officers daily without a solution in sight. Although the courts are a major problem, I am sure we can work smarter with the procurator fiscal service fixed penalties do not address this phenomenal waste of effort."

He added: "If the Crown were responsible for paying the costs of officers going to court, then I think this would change."

Prior to recent changes to summary justice and the introduction of fines in the form of fixed penalty notices, a five-month audit at Edinburgh Sheriff Court revealed that only 120 out of 744 police witnesses actually gave evidence - about 16% - wasting an estimated £127,456.

However, in response, Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, said: "Cases are now being dealt with a month sooner on average. Around 50,000 witnesses were spared the need to be cited between April to December 2008 compared with the same period the previous year."

The chairman also said that any suggestion of cutting police numbers to make savings during the recession needed to be "robustly discredited". Speaking on the economic downturn, Mr Flowers said: "It's not just crime that increases, it's public disorder and anti-social behaviour, too."

Mr MacAskill reiterated that the government has no plans to reduce the country's forces from eight to one and Mr Flowers made clear the federation would be opposed to such a move.

A Crown Office spokesman said: "We continue to work with the police to reduce the amount of time spent by officers unnecessarily at court and the summary justice reforms introduced in March 2008 are already resulting in significant improvements."

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