Scotland is being over-criminalised by new laws, study warns



SCOTTISH society is being over-criminalised by politicians creating too many new laws, a report from legal academics has warned.

A Glasgow University study found Holyrood is far more likely to create criminal offences than Westminster, with Scotland receiving twice as many new offences in one year than England.
It found that in 2010/11, a total of 1,223 offences were created which apply to Scotland, compared to 634 for England and Wales.
When offences which applied to the whole of Britain or were created by European legislation were taken out, the report found only 10 offences were created by Westminster for England and Wales, with 165 created for Scotland by Holyrood.
The report’s authors, which include respected legal academic James Chalmers, the university’s regius professor of law, say people are often being jailed for “trivial” offences.
Prof Chalmers, who co-researched the report with Professor Fiona Leverick, said Scottish politicians had difficulty cutting back on making new crimes.
He said: “The worry is that the Scottish government is choosing to create criminal offences as a first resort.
“Westminster has been moving away from that but Holyrood appears to have great difficulty regulating without criminalising.”
He continued: “Society should be concerned because in many cases the sanctions attached to seemingly trivial regulations can be a jail sentence.
“We hope we have demonstrated that Holyrood’s propensity to create criminal offences is a cause for concern.”
Among the offences created in 2010 was failing to comply with notices issued under the Historic Environment (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2011.
This raised the level of fines to £50,000 on summary conviction for unauthorised works to a scheduled monument or listed building.
Prof Chalmers  was appointed to the Regius Chair of Law in 2012, having previously taught at Edinburgh and Aberdeen universities, and has received a prestigious Philip Leverhulme  prize for outstanding scholarship.
The Scottish Conservatives said the number of new laws meant legislation was not being scrutinised properly.
Justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: “It has resulted in there being some very poor legislation because it has not been scrutinised properly.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “It is for the Scottish parliament to decide whether to pass laws and they scrutinise all legislation closely.
“We approach the development of new criminal offences by always considering whether there is a clear policy need for the conduct in question to be criminalised.”
In 2011 legal watchdogs the Law Society of Scotland said new legislation “is not always the answer to society’s problems.”

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