‘Staggering’ number flee from justice in Lothians

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POLICE are chasing more than 50 alleged criminals every day on new warrants granted by Lothian courts, while the number of bail violations has also soared during the last year.

A total of 2645 warrants were outstanding at the most recent count, with individuals accused of rape, assault and drug offences amongst those on the wanted list.

The figures were today described as “staggering”, sparking calls for a “zero tolerance” approach.

Police chiefs said they were “committed” to apprehending anyone with a live warrant.

The majority of those on the hit list had warrants granted against them after failing to appear in court, with police tasked with tracking down 13,347 people over the year.

Meanwhile, bail breaches in the force area, which commonly include not turning up to court appearances and interfering with witnesses, climbed to 1849 between last April and March against 1579 for the same period the year before.

The oldest warrant still outstanding on the Lothian and Borders Police books is from January 2000.

Police visit the homes and workplaces of those on the warrant lists before taking them to court if they are found.

Gavin Brown, Lothians Tory MSP, said: “These are staggering statistics. An immense amount of valuable police time is being spent chasing up people who should have turned up in court or those who have violated their bail conditions.

“The bail figures have seen a dramatic rise over the year, with nearly an extra person every day being charged with breaching their bail.

“We need a zero tolerance approach for those who violate bail or fail to appear at court.”

With 13,347 warrants issued in the Lothians between last April and March, the courts are passing an average of 51 a day to police between Monday and Friday each week.

A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police is committed to bringing those who commit crimes to justice and the force will use all powers at its disposal to locate and apprehend anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant.

“Ultimately, the court service are responsible for issuing an arrest warrant and officers regularly engage with the procurator fiscal to discuss the progress of any warrant issued.”

In previous bids to reduce the number of outstanding warrants, police have sent greetings cards to criminals urging them to hand themselves in.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Decisions on whether to grant bail or remand individuals are for the courts.

“The present government has demonstrated its commitment to protecting the public and strengthening the ability of the courts to deal with those accused of serious crimes.”

amcewen@edinburghnews.com

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