By Lucy Ashton
If you think you are a hard man or woman, of course, and you enjoy a Saturday night punch-up with your mates – and your perceived enemies too, of course – then there’s a good chance you will get away with it in Scotland.
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today called for the SNP government to protect the justice budget.
You might even get away with duffing up your partner if your team gets beaten.
Mr McArthur wants the SNP government to enhance community policing after new research by his party found that less than half of violent assaults resulted in a criminal charge being reported to the Procurator Fiscal last year.
Scottish Liberal Democrat research found that of the 57,708 cases of common assault recorded by police in 2022/23:
- Just 45% (26,236) resulted in a criminal charge being reported to the Procurator Fiscal.
- Just 33% (19,041) were prosecuted.
In September, it was reported that some crimes will no longer be investigated in the North East of Scotland in an attempt to prioritise emergencies. The chair of the Scottish Police Federation warned that the pilot project is a “a dangerous precedent” which risks public mistrust of the police service.
Mr McArthur said: “The public will be understandably worried that so few violent crimes resulted in a criminal charge being brought to the Procurator Fiscal, and that even fewer led to prosecution.
LibDem MSP Liam McArthur says too many people get off with assault.
“Scotland’s justice system is under a mountain of pressure, a situation made no easier by successive SNP governments failing to give it the necessary support.
“The SNP’s repeated squeeze on the justice budget is forcing Police Scotland to make tough decisions that will impact on community safety, with police chiefs warning about the harsh realities of falling officer numbers.
“Ministers must do everything they can to cut crime and ensure that cases progress effectively through the system. To achieve this, the Scottish Government must protect the justice budget and enhance community policing, enabling officers to be both trusted and visible, and equipped with the resources they need to do their jobs.”
Recorded crime figures for 2022/23 show that there were 57,708 cases of common assault recorded by police. You can find a further breakdown of common assault cases here.
A Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service found that 26,236 common assault charges were reported to COPFS in 2022/23. It also found that 19,047 common assault charges were prosecuted by COPFS.
Common assault is when a person inflicts violence on someone else or makes them think they are going to be attacked. It does not have to involve physical violence. Threatening words or a raised fist is enough for the crime to have been committed, as long as the victim believes that they are about to be attacked.
You can read more about the pilot in the North East here
Speaking to 1919 Magazine at the beginning of October, the General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, David Kennedy, said: “The reality is we have a lack of officers.
“All we can do is keep highlighting it and saying to the public that any notion that policing will remain the same and will remain as safe as it has been is just not going to happen.
“People need to realise that, and government needs to realise that.
“We might see more M9 cases appearing where people actually die because that’s the harsh reality if there are not enough police officers to get to calls that they are meant to attend.
“People may die.”