By Cara Sulieman
JUSTICE Secretary Kenny Mackaskill was yesterday accused of “losing grip” on crime after it was revealed almost 6,000 suspected criminals are on the run in Scotland as police fail to fulfil their warrants.
They include those feared to have committed some of the most serious crimes in the country including five outstanding warrants for murder, eight for attempted murder, six for rape and one for attempted rape.
The vast majority of others are for so called lesser crimes such as breach of the peace and road traffic offences.
But astonishingly, the figures could be just the tip of the iceberg as three of Scotland’s police forces admit they do not keep an easily accessible record of what crimes each outstanding warrant is for.
And it has led to angry demands from opposition parties for urgent action to improve the system with some accusing Justice Minister Kenny Mackaskill of “losing grip” of crime.
Labour’s shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Baker, blasted: “This is another example of the mess that the justice system is in under Kenny MacAskill.
“One problem after another leading to a meltdown in public confidence in the minister.
“He’s lost control of our jails, his plans for community sentences are dangerous and under-funded, he’s soft on knife crime and out of touch with opinion in Scotland.
“It is also intolerable we have three police forces that have no idea of these figures.
“Someone needs to get a grip on the situation but there is no confidence in this minister to deliver.”
The discrepancies are so bad that Tayside Police asked that our investigators didn’t compare their figures with other forces.
They said that system for recording the figures is “not generic” and therefore any comparison would be inaccurate.
They said: “Please note that police forces in the United Kingdom are routinely required to provide crime statistics to government bodies and the recording criteria is set nationally.
“However, the systems used for recording these figures are not generic, nor are the procedures used locally in capturing the crime data.
“It should be noted that, for these reasons, our response to your questions should not be used for comparison purposes with any other response you may receive from any other Force.”
Central Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway and Northern Constabulary all claimed sifting through the warrants and breaking them down into the type of crime would take them TOO LONG and cost too much for a Freedom of Information request.
“Agreed classification system”
Northern Constabulary admitted that they keep a record of the most serious “Class One” warrants as they are required to record their outstanding warrants by priority.
They said: “Whilst we do not record warrants information in a way which enables us to answer the detail you are seeking, I can advise that Northern Constabulary records warrants by an agreed classification system which indicates the priority.”
The seven Class One warrants that are outstanding with the force include one for cruelty to and unnatural treatment of children, four serious assault, one for death by dangerous driving and one for robbery and assault with intent to rob.
Dumfries and Galloway Police said that they don’t record the alleged crimes at all.
They said: “In relation to the alleged crimes, I have to advise that this information is not statistically recorded.”
A spokesman for the Justice Minister confirmed that there was no guidance issued on the recording of police warrants.
He said: “The position is that no guidance has been issued as this is an operational matter for individual forces to determine.”
But Scottish Tory justice spokesman, Bill Aitken, said that wasn’t good enough and that the police needed to be doing more to catch any individuals who had a warrant out against them.
“Less than proactive”
He said: “We are paying for a substantially increased number of police officers and there has to be a much more determined approach to the execution of warrants particularly when these relate to a failure to appear on a serious charge.
“I do sometimes feel that the police are less than proactive in this respect simply hoping that they will pick up the individual on another matter and thereafter deal with the outstanding warrant.
“I want them out there looking for these people.”
The majority of those wanted on warrant for murder charges come from the Strathclyde force area which also has the most warrants out for those wanted over attempted murder charges, followed by Grampian.
Lothian and Borders has the most outstanding warrants for suspected rapists, while Fife is hunting more alleged traffic offenders than any other force.