‘Put simply, it is time to throw away the key’

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Is the Scottish justice system a soft touch? Many Evening News readers have repeatedly said so and will be watching carefully for the sentencing next month of Kris Brown, Lee Knott and Ian Hunter.

These three men were caught with £2 million worth of heroin at a house in Edinburgh in December 2010.

The drugs – the biggest haul ever made by Lothian and Borders Police – were seized as part of Operation Congress, an initiative launched in April 2010, which has focused on the activities of serious and organised criminals operating in the Lothians.

The scale of the operation was so large that the haul could have resulted in a massive 170,000 deals at street level – blighting communities all across Edinburgh.

The police themselves, led by new head of CID Chief Superintendent Gill Imery, deserve praise for their hard work in breaking this gang and gathering evidence for a conviction.

Chief Constable David Strang said the convictions were the result of “hard work and comprehensive investigation undertaken by my officers”. He added: “It has yielded positive results for the communities we serve.”

Undoubtedly there are benefits for communities, but for how long?

A Glasgow University study found that 55,000 Scots are using heroin, illegal methadone or other drugs. Hundreds of millions are spent annually on policing, healthcare, court time and looking after addicts’ shattered families — as well as the broader costs to the economy and society.

Education is part of the answer, of course. But when dealers are caught the justice system must make it clear in the strongest possible terms that society abhors their actions. Put simply, this is the time to throw away the key.

The reality is that many others are continuing to peddle misery through the drugs trade. We can educate, we can inform, but until we bring out the toughest possible sentences for the worst offenders we are short-changing the victims, the law-abiding public and the police.

Leith up in arms

Congratulations to Leith residents who have campaigned for the return of Leith’s coat of arms to the community.

The Court of the Lord Lyon, the heraldic authority for Scotland, has been responsible for the historic crest since 1920 after Leith amalgamated with Edinburgh.

The decision to return the flag follows a campaign, led in part by local resident, writer and historian, Alex Wilson. The drive to restore the flag has also been helped by Leith Academy pupils, who use a version for their school crest. Well done, all.