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Interview


Supporting change


Ross Reid Justice Correspondent


Controversial plans to dismantle Scotland’s long-standing regional policing set-up and replace it with a single force are proving to be divisive


Merging the current eight forces into a


national unit would undoubtedly be the most radical transformation in generations – a potential sea change that has created a major schism in opinion across political and policing spheres. Nowhere have more concerns been


expressed than in the Highlands and Islands, where it is felt a national model – with a headquarters in the central belt – could leave local communities without adequate coverage. Ian Latimer, who this month retired after


serving as Chief Constable of Northern Constabulary for ten years, has been at the forefront of voicing concerns. He said he has been proud to serve the


“modern and progressive force”, but insists the rarity of its geographical make-up means there must remain a local focus. “Te force has responsibility for policing


the unique environment of the 10,000 square miles of the Highlands and Islands,” he said. “Tis is achieved by a highly visible style


of localised community policing to rural, distant islands and urban communities. Te expectations placed on us by our communities are significant but the police officers and support staff consistently deliver high levels of performance characterised by high detection rates, low levels of crime and antisocial behaviour and high levels of public confidence in what we do within our communities. “I worked hard with the police board to increase our operational capacity and


Ian Latimer


visibility with police officer numbers increasing from 650 to a high of over 800 in 2009/10.” He added: “Over a number of years we


have shown that we can modernise and the force has re-aligned its existing service footprint, squeezed down back office and support costs and removed 130 support staff posts alone since 2007 to achieve efficiencies to ensure we maintain high quality policing and demonstrate best value in the use of increasingly scarce financial resources. “Tis has provided the foundation for


sustainable service provision during the current years of on-going budget reductions. Much work has been undertaken to model the force to impact positively on service delivery, reduce demand, share services and move towards more effective collaborative working.” Earlier this month a consultation on the future of Scottish policing was launched,


IN BRIEF


Rape unit set up A dedicated rape investigation unit has been set up in Glasgow, following a string of attacks on women in the past three months. The unit will comprise ten specialist officers, led by a detective inspector. Strathclyde Police said 100 officers were patrolling the streets in Glasgow city centre on Friday and Saturday nights in the wake of recent attacks.


New confiscation powers New powers enabling law enforcement agencies to seize more money from criminals in Scotland have been welcomed. Changes to the Proceeds of Crime Act extend the range of offences from which profits can be seized. These will now include illegal money lending, distribution of obscene material and supply or intent to supply unclassified video recordings. The threshold at which profits can be stripped from criminals will also be lowered, from £5,000 to £1,000.


Female prison population rises The number of women given prison sentences in Scotland has almost doubled in the past ten years, according to a report. Women are also more likely to receive longer terms, with courts taking a harder line on older women, despite there being no significant increase in serious crime, the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research’s findings suggest. Figures show the average female prison population in Scotland rose from 210 a day in 1999-2000 to 413 in 2008-09. The average length of sentence increased from 228 days to 271.


Warning over drink culture The outgoing Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini has warned of an “apocalypse” of alcohol-fuelled crime unless Scotland tackles its drinking culture. She said that reducing the availability of cheap alcohol would help tackle the problem. She also added that alcohol was a contributory factor in almost every violent crime in Scotland.


Addiewell assaults ‘too high’ A report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons has expressed concern about the level of assaults on staff at Addiewell – Scotland’s newest prison. Brigadier Hugh Monro said there were also serious issues with healthcare at the privately-run jail in West Lothian. In his first inspection of the prison, he said there had been 49 minor incidents of prisoner-on-staff violence in the year to October 2010.


28 March 2011 Holyrood 47


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