btpBy Sally Edgar

Drunken trouble-makers who misbehave on Scotland’s trains will now be hit with an on-the-spot £40 fine, police have confirmed.

British Transport Police (BTP)  will now have the power to tackle low-level anti-social behaviour at the scene, rather than going through the courts and paperwork previously involved.

The BTP estimate that around 500 offences will be dealt with using this method within the first year that it is introduced. These offences would include drunk and disorderly behaviour, vandalism, and breach of the peace on trains or in and around railway station buildings.

 Assistant Chief Constable David McCall, who is based with the Scottish area for British Transport Police, said: 

“Until now, the rest of Scotland’s police force, except for the British Transport Police (BTP), could issue fixed penalties for low level disorder, such as shouting and swearing in the street or minor disturbance. However, the minute an individual stepped into a train station or onto a train, the only options for the BTP was to do nothing or to arrest them and report them to the Procurator Fiscal.’

Minor offences, such as these, would previously have required the offender being subject to arrest and a report to the local Procurator Fiscal. Now that the BTP will be able to deal with the matter on site, it provides a swift alternative to handling low-level disorder. It also means less paper-work for the BTP.

edinburgh_transport_2Assistant Chief Constable McCall continued:

“Sometimes, the behaviour doesn’t warrant arrest. Sometimes a normally wise and law-abiding citizen can be out one night, have had too much to drink and end up with a criminal record because of something quite minor. This in the future could effect their employability. But, this way, if the person accepts their fine and pays it willingly, then they will have no criminal record.”

This new fining system allows the BTP to punish offenders but, instead of gaining a criminal record, those who pay the fine will simply be kept on the BTP personal records for two years. This is to allow the police force to recognise re-offenders.

When asked whether this new fining system would improve anti-social behaviour and discourage low-level offenders, McCall said:

“Well, we wouldn’t have trained officers and communicated with the Scottish court Administration and Fiscal if we did not have evidence of it being successful elsewhere. We have seen this haver success south of the Border, where is has been in action for years. After looking into this, we could see a lot of advantages of going down this road.”

Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for Justice, supports the decision to give the BTP this power. He said:

“The public should be able to travel on our rail network without fear of being affected by loutishness, drunkeness and other unacceptable behaviour. British Transport Police officers will now have the same powers as all of Scotland’s police forces to take action against anyone indulging in such behaviour, helping them free up more time for preventing and tackling more serious crimes.

The Scottish Government fully supports our police and other law enforcement agencies in delivering instant justice through thses on-the-spot fines.”.

British Transport Police commenced issuing the fixed penalty notices under the Anti-Social Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004, on 1st April 2009.

By Sally Edgar.
Police may be given the power to warn women against potentially violent partners as the Government reveals a plan to tackle domestic abuse.
Men that have had previous offenses could be placed on a register, identifying them as a potential risk to women. This would be monitored by police who could have the authority to warn these offender’s girlfriend’s of their history. If neccessary, police could also be given powers to ban offenders from the family home for a fortnight.
These plans have been listed in a consultation document due to published by the Home Office.  Home Secretary Jacqui Smith hopes that if the ideas are passed they could help to protect women and reduce their exposure to domestic violence.
“At the moment we have orders that quite often individual women take out on their partners, or ex-partners, if they have been abusive to them.

“Perhaps we ought to turn that round and say that the order ought to attach to the perpetrator, to the usually man, who has actually had a series of offences; that might be one way of doing it.

“Or perhaps there may be times when it is appropriate for people to actually be given information by the police that somebody that they have started a relationship with is somebody who has a history of violence.


“We’ve already made real progress with domestic violence incidents more than halving in the past 12 years. But I want to start a national debate on what more we can do to prevent it and challenging attitudes which condone it.”

Even with recent progress there are still a high number of cases of physical or emotional abuse in the home. And it’s not just women that are suffering from this form of abuse. Jacqui Smith has announced that “Violence against women and girls is unacceptable in any form.”  The fact that the report focuses on women victims may leave abused men feeling somewhat unsupported and discriminated against sexually.
In 2007, 142 people died in domestic attacks, including 38 men. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are thought to suffer some kind of abuse behind closed doors every year. Many of these people are too afraid to confront their partners and continue their lives in silence.
Scotland is also hoping to make this issue a high priority. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has reinforced the importance of fighting for this cause.

“Sadly, violence is part of too many women’s lives across the world. I want today to call on my fellow political leaders in Scotland – let’s put family back at the top of the agenda, let’s have the debate about how we put family back at the heart of society and how we support the family,” she said.


Prisoners with Power

March 9, 2009

By Sally Edgar

When people are sent to jail it should be a punishment not a period of respite. Punishment should include the sacrifice of freedom and not only in a physical respect. Mobile phones allow the freedom of communication, and if prisoners continue to smuggle this technology inside prison walls, they have a luxury that is far from deserved. This is why the new law in Scotland to extend the sentance of anyone found in possession of a mobile phone is an encouraging development. If caught, prisoners could face a 30 day extension, but will this deterent really work? I doubt an an extra month would seem so daunting to someone already enduring a life sentance. This home comfort would probably seem worthwhile for the power that it could bring and I am sure that the majority of prisoners would put the luxury item to good use.jail-cell-729928

Contact with the outside world can allow prisoners to carry on their wheeling and dealing from the comfort of their own cell. If they have access to their former life, then they have the power to continue organising crime and even threatening witnesses. Last year’s news of killer James Demarco ordering a machete attack from Edinburgh’ Saughton Prison (as he listened to the event take place) shows just how dangerous this power can be. This case could have been prevented had the use of mobile phones been controlled more effectively.

Officials are obviously aware of the dangers that come from the access to mobile phones. This is reflected in the further plans to issue signal blocking in prison grounds. New mobile phone technology means that handsets are decreasing in size and they are therefore easier to be concealed by in-mates. The phone would, however, be useless if there is no connection.

Along with this, the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill, which goes before parliament next year, suggests increasing the penalty for using mobile phones in prison to up to two years. This time period is more drastic and would surely discourage people to greater effect. If signal is limited and suitable punishment is enforced then maybe one day prisoners will live their sentance with no freedom, no comforts and most importantly of all no power.

castleBy Sally Edgar

Scotland’s Tourism Industry faces yet another “challenging” year, as reports show that it has suffered higher losses than anywhere else in the UK.

The report, that was issued by accountants PKF, shows that hotel occupancy north of the border has slumped by 4.1% in the last year. This news comes as Scotland promotes Scottish Tourism Week, which is now in its fourth year. But, Edinburgh council, among others, has voiced plans to divert money away from VisitScotland to market themselves.

With tourism providing the economy with £4.2 billion, hotel chiefs have described the decrease in Scotland’s popularity as “very concerning”. It is also alarming, in the current economic climate, that this slump could put many jobs at risk. Tourism employs one in every 11 people in the Scottish workforce, roles which could prove redundant if the number of visitors continues to fall.

PKF said the immediate outlook was still grim, with the hospitality industry “facing one of its toughest challenges for some time”.

Alastair Rae, a partner at PKF specialising in the hospitality and leisure sector, said: “The decline in both occupancy and rooms yield in Scotland has increased in pace toward the year end and looks likely to continue into 2009. Reductions in both business and leisure expenditure are now having a serious impact upon the sector.”
Experts are hoping that this year’s Homecoming could be the short-term saviour for the country’s economy. The event – which celebrates the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth – is hoped to draw tourism from all over the world. With more than 300 events running from Burns’ Night to St Andrew’s Day, the celebrations could give Scotland a “unique advantage” over other countries. During the recession, this could be the all important boost that is needed to get Scotland back on track.

Dr Joe Goldblatt, a tourism expert at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, said the Year of Homecoming could provide a vital catalyst to boost Scotland’s economy and get it’s successful reputation for Tourism back on track. 
He said: “It could have a very positive domino effect if the Scottish diaspora who visit tell their friends back home Scotland is good value for money, as word of mouth is the best advertising. The event has given Scotland a unique and cost-effective advantage.”

As Homecoming Scotland 2009 provides an intimate look in to Scottish tradition, locals and tradespeople will be hoping that the event will provide enough income to give the tradition a future.