Are you worried about crime in your community?

A force to reckon with
We want to stop criminals stealing our streets. Cutting crime and the fear of crime will be a high priority for an SNP administration. We want to create a Scotland where we can all walk down our streets without concern for our personal safety — a Scotland where crime and the fear of crime are no longer part of our daily lives.

It is essential that we have sufficient police numbers to ensure not only the speedy detection of crime, but also its prevention. That is why the SNP are committed to providing new money from our New Projects Fund to put 1,000 more police officers on our streets.

Visible policing plays a vital role in reducing the fear of crime, which can be as debilitating as the level of crime itself, so the SNP will ensure more front line police. To further increase frontline police numbers there are a number of additional measures we will take, including a reduction in the amount of police time spent in court and increasing the number of civilians undertaking auxiliary tasks in the police force.

The justice system
Despite increasing levels of reported offences and arrests, the number of cases referred for prosecution and the number of convictions are falling year on year. It is clear that there is a failure in the system, and we will ensure that the resources becoming available are used to improve efficiency and effectiveness within the Crown Office and Fiscal Service.

We recognise however that further steps will be required to relieve some of the pressure on our court system. We will investigate setting up weekend courts, which would ease some of this pressure on the system. Summary criminal courts could meet at weekends and in the evening, and the Small Claims Court likewise.

Family Courts
A system of Family Courts has worked well in countries such as Canada, Australia and Japan, and we would set up Family Courts in Scotland - combining divorce, contact, residency, domestic violence, and some youth crime.

Drug Courts
In 1999 the SNP pioneered the idea of Drug Courts — an effective way of tackling drug related crime. The aims are harm reduction across the community, reduction in drug use and dependency, with the ultimate intention of preventing re-offending. This involves recognition that prison is not a simple, effective or cheap answer to all drug crime. In government we would introduce Drug Courts across the country.

Dealing with offenders
Scotland’s over-crowded prisons are failing to address the offending behaviour of prisoners. The result is increased re-offending and higher crime levels. A central objective of an SNP administration will be to reduce re-offending rates, through reducing prison numbers, creating conditions in prisons that aid the rehabilitation of prisoners and employing alternatives to custody.

Alternatives to custody
There is no question of not sending criminals, from whom society needs protection, to prison. The problem is that there are too many people in prison who do not belong there, whether they be fine defaulters or criminals who could be dealt with more effectively by alternatives to custody.

Fine defaulters made up a massive 37 per cent of all those sent to Scotland’s prisons in 2001. An SNP government will reform the system of fines to help cut fine defaulting and cut prison numbers. One of the reasons for default is inability to pay the fine imposed. We propose a ‘unit fine’ system, which takes full account of ability to pay. Under such a system, fines are imposed in terms of a number of units. Then, the convicted person’s means are assessed and the value of the units related to his or her means.

We believe the use of weekend sentencing would give our courts greater sentencing options without increasing prison numbers, and we would examine the configuration of our prison estate with a view to their implementation. We would also like to see the expansion and development of electronic tagging as a tough alternative to custody.

Tackling re-offending and reducing prison numbers
It is vital that we create conditions in prisons that aid the rehabilitation of prisoners and cut re-offending. To help reduce re-offending rates, we require greater inter-agency co-operation between services for prisoners when they are released.

Click image to view a video clip