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.