JUSTICE: 35,000 fines ignored as SNP in dock over outstanding £7.2m debt

Russell Findlay
Thugs and drug users are ‘making a mockery’ of Scotland’s justice system, Scottish Tory MSP Russell Findlay said.

By Lucy Ashton

Criminals are “making a mockery” of SNP ministers’ soft-touch justice system by ignoring fines handed out by courts.

Figures from the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS) revealed 183,879 financial penalties have been handed out to people who committed “low-level” offences over the last 36 months.

These offences can include possession of drugs and theft between 2018 and March 2021.

Of the total, 35,244 (almost 20 per cent) have not been paid by criminals with the final outstanding bill due to the Scottish public purse now worth £7.2 million.

The figures were also an increase from £6.8 million worth of fines which were in arrears as of the last quarterly report in November 2021.

The fines include the cumulative value of Sheriff Court fines, Justice of the Peace Court fines, Fiscal Direct Penalties and Police Fixed Penalties.

Of those unpaid fines, payment has not been received for 24,561 while 10,683 penalties were ”’in arrears”.

It comes as the SNP-led Scottish Government pledged to use alternative sentences including fines rather than jail time in a bid to reduce pressure on the prison service.

Alternative penalties are often used for crimes that are deemed to be at a low enough level that they do not require jail time.

Scottish Conservatives community safety spokesman Russell Findlay said of the figures: “This is a complete dereliction of duty from the SNP.

“On their watch millions of pounds in fines due from criminals are not being paid and the situation is only getting worse.

“It makes a mockery of the justice system when these fines are imposed, but not collected.

“There is no point in SNP ministers putting measures in place to impose these fines if vast numbers of them go unpaid.”

Mr Findlay continued: “More and more criminals clearly know they can get away without paying their dues. That is another real insult to victims of crime.  Victims and the public must have faith that these fines will be paid, but the SNP’s justice system continues to be on the side of criminals.”

Scottish Lib Dem deputy leader and former police officer Wendy Chamberlain, added: “We need to ensure that there are robust alternatives to prison available.

“However these cease to be an effective deterrent if the fines are simply never collected.

“The Scottish Government need to ensure that robust action is taken to collect these fines and ensure that justice is served.”

The SCTS has been approached for comment.

Chamberlain urges SNP to ramp up efforts to fight violent crime

Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader and former police officer Wendy Chamberlain MP.

Meanwhile, responding to new Scottish Government statistics showing that non-violent sexual crimes in Scotland have risen by 7% and that sexual crimes have risen by 3% in the past two years, Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader and former police officer Wendy Chamberlain MP., pictured above,  called the figures alarming and called for fresh funds and resources for Police Scotland.

Ms Chamberlain said:  “The significant rise in both violent and sexual crime is extremely concerning. Thousands of families will have been left reeling from the impact of such crimes.

“Officers have been working non-stop, and their efforts during the pandemic are to be commended, however insufficient funds and resources make their job even harder. Coupled with the loss of valuable civilian expertise and a reliance on outdated IT systems, it is no wonder our system is under immense pressure.

“The increase of sexual crimes is particularly troubling, and it is imperative that the culture of violence against women and girls is tackled holistically. That’s why Scottish Liberal Democrats have previously proposed a commission to look at violence against women and girls across all aspects of society.

“The public wants officers to target violent crime and be focused on keeping communities safe.  It is clear that the Scottish Government must ramp up its efforts to tackle violent crimes as soon as possible.”

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