Government urged to ‘make the fine fit the crime’

The Scottish Government has insisted it has no plans to introduce tougher on-the-spot fines for anti-social behaviour – but has pledged to keep the matter “under review”.

Community safety minister Ash Denholm promised she would consult with police and others on whether the proposal, which is being championed by the Scottish Conservatives, could be effective.

She made the commitment after Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr called on ministers to bring in £100 fixed penalty notices.

He said these could be handed out by officers to deal with more serious forms of anti-social behaviour, such as throwing fireworks, criminal damage, and minor shoplifting offences.

He told MSPs England and Northern Ireland already have a two-tier system in place for such penalties.

Police in Scotland can currently hand out £50 fixed penalty notices to deal with low level offences, with Mr Kerr suggesting £100 penalties could be used in addition these.

Mr Kerr said: “By increasing the fixed penalty notice for the worst anti-social behaviour, it is time to make the fine fit the crime.”

He said it is a “simple proposition which can remind communities blighted by anti-social behaviour that this Parliament has not abandoned them”.

There were almost 1,000 incidents a day of anti-social behaviour reported to police last year, he told Holyrood, with this total up by 5% on the previous 12 months.

But he noted: “Anti-social behaviour is rising whilst at the same time fixed penalty notices have declined 75% from around 55,000 in 2013-14 to around 11,000 last year. There seems to be a disconnect.”

He called for tougher on-the-spot fines to be introduced to provide “swift and effective punishment for low level anti-social and nuisance offending” – adding this would also serve as a “highly visible deterrent” to others.

He said: “I do think we need to try something new to address the fact that such behaviour is rising.”

Ms Denholm told him fixed penalty notices are “only one part of an integrated approach in our justice system”.

She insisted there is “no evidence at the moment to suggest that a higher penalty notice would have the desired effect”.

She added: “At the moment we have no plans to raise it but we will keep it under review.

“We are always listening to our justice partners, we keep this under review, and we will ask them because they are the experts in this, whether it is something they would consider.”