THOUSANDS of alleged crimes, including drug dealing and firearms offences, have been dropped because police filed reports too late.
In the past six years almost 4,000 cases were reported to prosecutors but were time-barred.
The 3,850 cases dropped between 2008/09 and 2013/14 also included underage sex, electoral fraud and animal cruelty.
Police have up to a year to report a case to the Crown Office but missed the deadline for no fewer than 763 cases in 2013/14, the first year of Police Scotland.
The controversial merging of regional police into a single force in April 2013 has been beset by delays and complications.
A 2014 report from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) finding that the transition had increased the bureaucratic workload for officers.
Solicitor David McKie of Levy & McRae Solicitors, said that general strain on public bodies would have undoubtedly played a “significant part” in delays of this kind.
The figures show that six underage sex charges, seven firearms offenses, 10 animal welfare charges and 112 drug dealing charges were reported too late over a six year period.
Thomas Ross QC, president of the Scottish Criminal Bar Association, said: “It seems extraordinary that they would take so long to report. If it was an isolated incident then you could accept that mistakes happen, but we’re talking thousands of cases here.”
The lawyer suggested that changes needed to be made by Police Scotland, explaining: “In any bureaucratic process people are going to make mistakes, but these figures suggest there’s something much more serious going on.”
In response to such criticism Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said: “Police Scotland works hard to investigate and report to the procurator fiscal every instance of where a complaint of a criminal event may have taken place.”
“In 2013/14, a total of 270,397 crimes were recorded yet only 763 charges were time-barred, which is less than 0.28 percent.”
“In a small number of cases, where we require assistance and information from a third party, despite our best efforts, this information is not received in time.”
But Advocate Brian McConnachie QC, a former senior prosecutor with the Crown Office, said this did not excuse delays in cases such as drunk-driving, which are relatively simple to report.
He said: “It is difficult to understand why such offences become time-barred. There is very little investigation involved and usually little more than two police officers’ evidence.”