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Real crime rate ‘more than double’ SNP figure – Mail

By Graham Grant
\r\nDaily Mail, 9 October 2008

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\r\nScotland’s true crime rate could be more than double the official figure hailed by the SNP as proof of a 25-year low.
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\r\nResearch suggests there were almost 2.3million crimes over the past year – nearly 145% more than the 957,390 ministers claim were committed.
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\r\nThe statistics, which take into account unreported crime, blow apart Kenny MacAskill’s boast last week the Nationalists had driven down crime rates to a historic low.
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\r\nThe revelations came in Power to Protect, a report on the criminal justice system published today by think-tank Reform Scotland.
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\r\nLast night, Scottish Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken said victims were ‘apathetic’ about reporting crime because of mounting disillusionment with the police service and courts.
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\r\nHe added: ‘This does not augur well for the future and highlights why a much more robust criminal justice system is vital.’
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\r\nThe Scottish Executive’s Crime and Victimisation Survey last published in 2006, found only four in ten crimes were reported.
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\r\nReform Scotland said: ‘This could mean the true level of offences in Scotland in 2007-08 was over 2.3million compared to the 957,000 that were actually reported.’
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\r\nChairman Ben Thomson said the level of recorded crime had risen by 4 per cent over the past ten years. Yet annual funding for the justice system is now £1.6billion, an increase of 44% in real terms over the decade.
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\r\nThe report said: ‘Despite a huge increase in criminal justice spending, Scotland is failing to adequately protect its citizens from high rates of crime.’
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\r\nAccording to Reform Scotland’s estimates, using Executive figures, the ‘true crime figure’ – for recorded crime plus unreported offences – for 2006-07 was 2,562,142.
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\r\nBut only one person was convicted for every 18 offences, showing the courts punish a tiny fraction of offenders.
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\r\nOnly 13 per cent of those convicted in Scotland in 2006-07 were sent to jail – 18,200 out of 138,000.
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\r\nThe report produced a European comparison that shows Scotland has the fourth highest crime rate per head of population in the EU and the fifth highest murder rate.
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\r\nThere are 800 crimes per 10,000 people in Scotland – only Sweden, which has the highest figure at 1,350, England and Wales and Belgium have higher rates.
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\r\nScotland’s murder rate is 0.2 per 10,000 people, compared to Lithuania, which has the highest figure in Europe, followed by Estonia, Latvia and Turkey.
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\r\nThe think-tank also condemned proposals from the Scottish Prisons Commission, led by former First Minister Henry McLeish, which called for the abolition of jail sentences for all but the most serious offenders.
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\r\nThe report said there is ‘a danger that the argument about prison numbers has become too focused on cutting prison numbers rather than cutting crime.’
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\r\nIt also recommended that automatic early release should be axed – an SNP pledge Mr MacAskill has been accused of ‘diluting’.
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\r\nThe report called for Scotland’s senior prosecutors to be elected on similar lines to U.S. district attorneys.
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\r\nElecting the country’s 11 area procurators fiscal, it claimed, would create ‘a far clearer and transparent’ system of justice.
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\r\nThe report said: ‘We would not envisage these elections being party political and would expect them to be between legal professionals fought on the politics and attitudes the individual would adopt in office.’
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\r\nAn Executive spokesman said it ‘had always been the case’ that not all crimes were reported.
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\r\nHe added: ‘The two reasons most commonly given by victims for not reporting to the police were that the incident was considered by them to be too trivial or that the police could not have taken any action in any case
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\r\n‘We have asked the University of Edinburgh to conduct analysis of the crime survey and to examine respondents’ propensity to report crime to the police over time. The results are due early next year.
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\r\n‘As the Justice Secretary said when the recorded crime figures were published, we’re not complacent. This government is determined to take the sustained, radical steps needed to cut crime over a generation, not just one year.’