Leader: The approach of the courts hampers police

The Balgreen tram stop in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
The Balgreen tram stop in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
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THE idea of Edinburgh as a divided city is as old as its seven hills, but it is as true today as ever.

This week we heard another dramatic illustration of the yawning gap between the haves and have nots. Two miles separate the tram stops at Bankhead and Balgreen, but new statistics have shown an 11-year difference between life expectancy in the two neighbourhoods.

Just as there is a divide in terms of health and wealth, so too there is on crime. In many areas, generally the more affluent, housebreaking is the biggest concern. Police Scotland have yet to get properly to grips with the rising problem. In other areas, including those covered by the Stronger North initiative, the issues are wider, including car theft, so-called joy riding and a certain lawlessness on the streets after dark.

The combined police and city council response to this has been far more impressive. The community has welcomed decisive and concerted efforts, but there must be no let-up if the good work is not to be undermined.

One problem hampering the police is the approach of the courts. All too often when they catch one of the handful of repeat offenders behind most of the trouble – and they have a pretty decent record of doing that – those responsible are spat almost straight back out of the court system, with no, or very short, prison sentences.

While sheriffs do have to follow Scottish Government guidelines, a feeling persists that many do not understand the distress which this kind of crime can cause.

Getting them down to the city’s housing estates to see for themselves is a great idea. That can only improve the chances of repeat offenders getting the kind of penalties they deserve.

At the moment, police officers must feel like they are fighting crime on our estates with one arm tied behind their back.