A visible police presence
The best way to fight crime and make our neighbourhoods safer is to have a visible police presence on our street. That is why over the last four years the SNP has put 1000 more police on the beat in Scotland.
Thanks in no small part to this increased police presence Scotland is now a safer place to live. Crime rates have fallen by a fifth since the SNP came to power and are now at their lowest level for 32 years. That means there are now 80,000 fewer crimes recorded by the police each year. Violent crime is also falling and is now at its lowest level for a quarter of a century.
Every bit as important as these statistics is the fact that studies show that fear of crime is falling in Scotland, proving that the increased police presence is making people feel safer.
We must build on this progress over the next five years. That's why we are committed to maintaining the 1000 extra police on the beat delivered in our first four years in power.
And we will ensure that these police officers are where they are most needed – out and about in our communities, not in the back office. We will achieve this through improving the way policing is organised in this country. Scotland currently has eight police forces, each with their own bureaucracy, PR departments and management. This is an unsustainable situation in the face of unprecedented Westminster cuts. In order to maintain the increased visible police presence we will reduce the number of police forces in Scotland. However, we will ensure that Scottish policing remains receptive and accountable to the varied and diverse communities that they serve.
Effective action that is reducing knife crime
We know that knife crime remains one of the gravest threats to public safety in Scotland and have acted to get knives off our streets. Knife crime has fallen by almost one third since the SNP came to power - that means more than 3000 fewer knife crimes a year.
Our plans are based on proven police action that works. We have increased the use of stop and search - there were 250,000 in Strathclyde last year alone. More stop and search has meant fewer people carrying knives through fear of being caught. Those who do carry are more likely to be caught and are going to prison for longer - sentences for knife carrying are the longest in a decade.
We will extend the tried and tested methods that work in reducing knife crime. We have doubled funding for the highly-successful "No Knives, Better Lives" scheme, a project that has seen a 35 per cent drop in knife crime through raising awareness of the dangers of knife crime amongst young people, and will roll it out across the country.
Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour
The vast majority of young people in Scotland are good citizens that we can all be proud of, and only a small number are to blame for much of the anti-social behaviour that harms our society. So we will help youngsters stay out of trouble while coming down hard on the persistent offenders.
We will extend and enhance the CashBack for Communities scheme, which has taken £40 million of the ill-gotten gains from organised crime and invested it in sport and cultural projects for young people in exactly those areas that are worst affected by crime and deprivation. To date, more than 500,000 young people have benefitted from this fund. We will reform the Proceeds of Crime Act to take even more money off criminals to re-invest in opportunities for young Scots in our communities.
Crucial to eradicating anti-social behaviour is tackling the underlying causes, in particular cheap booze. Cheap and widely available alcohol fuels a huge amount of anti-social behaviour in this country and we will, therefore, re-introduce our minimum pricing plans.
For those who do offend, we will continue to use on-the-spot fines to make sure that petty offenders cannot escape the consequences of their actions. In government, the SNP has increased the use of fixed penalty notices so that anti-social behaviour does not go unpunished. Last year alone there were 61,000 fixed penalty notices, an increase of 26 per cent, which means swift justice for low-level offenders who may otherwise have been lost in the court system.
We will adopt a zero-tolerance approach to football-related violence and prejudice, including domestic abuse, alcohol misuse, racism and sectarianism, and we will work with the police and the wider community to clamp down on such intolerable behaviour. We will take forward the six-point plan agreed at the recent summit with Scotland’s football authorities and Strathclyde police, and progress the work of the task force which is examining how to implement the six-point agreement.
Domestic violence in Scotland is falling but is still far too high. We are implementing Safer Lives: Changed Lives - a shared approach to tackling violence against women in conjunction with our partners in local government. We will also maintain funding for Scottish Women's Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland.
At the end of last year we acted to close a loophole which made it more difficult to secure prosecutions for domestic violence incidents that happen in a private place. A new offence of "engaging in threatening or abusive behaviour" has been created and we will work with the prosecutors and the police to ensure this welcome new piece of legislation also makes a positive difference for the women and men who suffer domestic violence.
We have also taken action on stalking by tightening up the law to give prosecutors greater scope to convict those who prey on unsuspecting members of the public. Those who engage in stalking or harassment via mobile phones or social networking can also now be brought to justice.
Prison and Sentencing
In government, the SNP has taken action to end the prison revolving door that sees three-quarters of prisoners re-offend within just two years of their release. We have replaced ineffective short-term sentences with tough and effective community punishments that force petty offenders to repay their debt to society through hard work in the community that they have wronged. Last year alone, petty offenders were forced to carry out 1.4 million hours of work in the community - from shifting snow to clearing up litter. The evidence shows that low level criminals who are punished in the community are far less likely to re-offend, so community punishment makes our society safer.
Instead of using prisons to give low-level offenders free bed and board for a few months, we can now use prison for keeping dangerous criminals off our streets. Under the SNP, those who commit serious crimes are going to prison for longer.
This is an approach that works. So we will build on it in the coming years. In the face of huge Tory budget cuts, we will maintain funding for Community Payback Orders so that offenders repay their debt to society through hard labour. We will work to establish the Sentencing Council, already legislated for, which will increase input from communities into sentencing.
We will address the explosion in the female prison population, which has doubled in the last decade despite the number of females committing offences staying the same. We will commission a review of female offending, including the rise in female incarceration.
We will also continue to invest in the prison estate. Despite unprecedented cuts to the Scottish capital budget by the UK Government, we will deliver HMP Low Moss and HMP Grampian as well as the second phase of HMP Shotts.
Throughout our first term in office we made dealing with organised criminal gangs a priority. We have taken £40 million from organised criminals over the last four years to re-invest in the communities they have damaged. We want to take even more money off criminals, so we will seek to refine proceeds of crime legislation, at both Scottish and UK level, to increase the number of offences that this legislation covers. We will keep the legislation under constant review so that police are able to react quickly to developments in the criminal world. Currently, the UK Government keeps anything above £30 million in one year that is raised through the Act – we will open negotiations to remove this limit and allow even more money seized from criminals to be invested in our communities.
Organised gangs prey on hard-working and law-abiding businesses, using taxi firms or tanning salons as a front for their criminal activities. The SNP will not stand by and let legitimate businesses be infiltrated by thugs and criminals. So we will introduce new Serious and Organised Crime Prevention Orders to restrict the activities of those with known criminal connections, including getting involved in running a business.
Despite the big reductions in Scotland's capital budget we will deliver the Scottish Crime Campus at Gartcosh - Scotland's first serious organised crime campus. This will greatly enhance police ability to disrupt and prosecute organised criminals – for instance through a state-of-the-art forensic lab.
Supporting the Victims of Crime
The most important people in the criminal justice system are the victims. In government, the SNP has legislated to rebalance the justice system in favour of victims by giving courts more flexibility to award compensation against an offender and update compensation orders so they can reflect changes in the means of the offender. We have also provided more protection for vulnerable witnesses, including making it easier for courts to grant witnesses anonymity.
We are determined to build on this progress and ensure that the rights of victims are always the priority in our justice system. That is why we will introduce a Victims' Rights Bill. This legislation will enshrine in law a victim's right to damages and compensation. It will also give victims input into sentencing policy and parole decisions, so that those who are most affected by crime have a say in how criminals are dealt with.
We know from Victim Support Scotland that too many victims accepting compensation offers or receiving compensation orders are paid late, and for many victims receiving compensation is a drawn out and stressful affair. We will look at that situation and put in place measures to help victims get their compensation more quickly.
Victims of crime will benefit from the continuation of our important legal reforms. Early on in our period of office we reformed the law to allow the Crown the right of appeal and we have legislated to address double jeopardy. If re-elected we will seek to introduce a law of evidence of similar fact - commonly known as a "Bad Character" law. This will mean that, in some of the most serious cases such as murder or rape, relevant previous convictions will be permissible as evidence.
Automatic Early Release
Over the last four years, we have made real progress towards transparency in sentencing. In the courts, the judiciary are clearer in spelling out the period that applies for custody and under licence in serious cases. The length of sentence for those committing the most serious offences has increased, improving public safety. We have also legislated for a sentencing council to help deliver more consistent and transparent sentencing.
We will build on the work already done and involve the sentencing council in further action to address unconditional early automatic release. We remain committed to ending automatic early release once the criteria set by the McLeish Commission are met. Those released on licence must be appropriately supervised for their risk and harm they pose. With Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPAs) now established to coordinate the agencies who manage offenders, we will continue to work to make our communities safer and the courts that protect them more transparent.
Please see pages 18-19 of the Scottish National Party manifesto for this policy.
Please see this SCREEN GRAB of the previous version of this policy from the party website.
Retrieved on 16/04/11 (1:11pm) from: 2011 Party Manifesto