Anti-Social Behaviour is one of the more difficult areas that the Councillors have to deal with. Often they are complicated cases with a long back-story, various points of view and often involved both sides being constituents involving constituents on both sides. Also often, those suffering from the Anti-Social Behaviour of their neighbours or fellow citizens are at their wits ends by the time they reach out for help so the imperative to help them quickly is massive. The scale of the problem in Scotland is quite staggering with almost 1,000 cases reported every day.
In addition, the breadth and scale of the problems in each individual case can be massively different, neighbours playing loud music, young people congregating outside someone’s home and making a racket, car joyriders and folk revving their engines at night in residential areas or vandalism of public property are just some of the examples I have had to deal with in the past few months.
The reasons for this behaviour happening can vary massively as well sometimes it is just ignorance about what effect their behaviour is having on others, sometimes it is boredom and they are looking for something to do or are youthful indiscretions. However, far too often the reason is simply that they do not believe there will be any meaningful consequences for their actions.
To combat this we need to prove that there are consequences for poor behaviour. We should be increasing the amount that the police can hand out in on the spot from £50 to £100. This would give the police more flexibility on how to handle the more serious cases of anti-social behaviour they come across that do not warrant court time. It is worth point out a 2 tier system already exists in the rest of the UK and police officers in other parts of the UK report being pleased with the flexibility it offers them to use their judgement.
This is partly a cultural shift as we have moved away from a society that values each other and community that we need to reverse, and I slowly think we are. Nevertheless the situation, it is being adopted.
Locally we can see this with the past closure of our court removing the act of justice from our county and moving it to a court in Edinburgh.
In addition, the decision to end jail sentence of less than a year in my view sends completely the wrong message out to those that would do wrong. In 2017/18 9,486 people received a sentence of less than a year and that included more 100 people convicted of attempted murder or serious assault, 98 sexual offenders and 329 people found guilty of handling an offensive weapon. I would find it hard to justify those people not receiving a jail sentence and I think the victims of the crimes would as well.
The Scottish Government plan would be that these offenders serve community sentences despite the fact that the system is already strain under the current load with only 7 out of 10 being completed. One can only assume that would mean even more criminals getting away scot-free.