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Scottish police say some crimes may not be investigated in bid to free up officers’ time – as critics say ‘the only winners are the criminals’


  • A pilot scheme saw thefts, break-ins and vandalism with no evidence dropped 
  • Police Scotland says it will ‘better manage public and victim expectations’
  • The size of the force is currently at it’s smallest since 2008 with 16,363 officers 

Police in Scotland might stop investigating minor crimes such as theft when there is no evidence to save time, in a move that could give criminals free reign if they leave no evidence behind them.

The shocking move by Police Scotland, which contrasts with UK Government ideals that every theft should be investigated, will see low-level cases with no leads dropped straight away.

The idea is to free up police resources to focus on solving more serious cases – but critics say the move will only benefit the criminals, the Telegraph reported.

A pilot scheme which finished in November saw complaints of some thefts, break-ins and vandalism being closed if there were no leads or CCTV evidence.

This comes as Police Scotland is seeing its smallest force since 2008, having shrunk to 16,363 officers from 16,645 the year before.

if the plan comes into force, it will mean that minor crimes with no evidence are dropped

if the plan comes into force, it will mean that minor crimes with no evidence are dropped 

Chief Constable Jo Farrell, advocating the plan, said it is 'no policy of non-investigation'

Chief Constable Jo Farrell, advocating the plan, said it is ‘no policy of non-investigation’ 

Chief Constable Jo Farrell, in an attempt to ease public nerves, has said that it is ‘no policy of non-investigation’ despite literally being specifically that – if the scheme goes ahead, minor cases with no leads will be dropped immediately after initial assessment. 

Police Scotland also think the idea, which they claim will only affect five per cent of cases, is a good one because, according to the Telegraph, it will mean victims don’t get their hopes up.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham told the newspaper: ‘We’ve been able to better manage public and victim expectations at the point of first contact than perhaps we would be at the moment.

‘There’s work under way to quantify the benefits in terms of capacity to free up front-line officers, where in the past they might have been allocated a series of crime reports where there was neither a proportionate or reasonable line of inquiry that could be pursued.’

Not everyone thinks the plan is a good one. Russel Findlay MSP, Scottish Parliament’s shadow justice secretary is one of them, but puts the blame on the ruling party: ‘Savage and sustained SNP cuts and their weak justice agenda have left police numbers at their lowest since 2008, with officers now unable to investigate certain crimes.

‘It should be a source of shame for ministers that this dangerous pilot scheme looks set to be rolled out across Scotland.

‘The public are not even being told what crimes will not be investigated nor how these decisions will be made.

Russel Findlay MSP, Scottish Parliament's shadow justice secretary, blames lack of funding

Russel Findlay MSP, Scottish Parliament’s shadow justice secretary, blames lack of funding

Tulliallan Castle - Police Scotland's headquarters - the force is the smallest its been in 16 years

Tulliallan Castle – Police Scotland’s headquarters – the force is the smallest its been in 16 years

‘Our hard-working police officers did not sign up for this. Communities don’t deserve it. The only winners are the criminals.’

If Police Scotland decide to go ahead with the scheme, it will be rolled out to the whole county.

As of 2021/2022, there were an estimated 494,000 crimes in 2021/22, of which nearly three quarters were property crimes and a quarter were violent crimes.

The same year, one out of ten adults experienced a crime – but this is half what it was ten years prior.

Less than half of adults living in Scotland said in a 2021/2022 survey the police in their local area do an excellent or good job. Victims of crime and those living in the most deprived areas were, according to the survey results, less likely to feel positively about the police.



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