UNSTOPPABLE: Scottish Daily Mail Splash, Monday 6th May

UNSTOPPABLE: Scottish Daily Mail Splash, Monday 6th May

A HARD core of 100 Scottish criminals has committed an astonishing 10,500 crimes between them, including rape and assault.

In a damning indictment of the soft touch legal system, details of the extraordinary level of reoffending emerged in a new Scottish Daily Mail investigation into the country’s most prolific criminals.

The top ten offenders have carried out nearly 2,000 offences, including vandalism, theft and hundreds of driving offences.

Despite the threat some of them pose to the public, police would not name the serial criminals, claiming that to do so would breach data protection laws.

The figures last night prompted calls for the public to be protected from serial offenders by scrapping the SNP’s early release system.

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: ‘It’s no surprise to see these figures when you consider how serious the Scottish Government is about reoffending, and justice in general.

‘Two things that would improve these figures are stiffer sentences and an end to automatic early release.

‘That would put a bit more fear into the would-be criminals – making them reconsider their actions and ensure those inside have a better chance of being rehabilitated.

‘The SNP should also be giving more work to prisoners to enhance their hopes of contributing to society once freed.’ Scotland’s eight former police forces were asked to provide information on their most prolific offenders from the past three Turn to Page 4 Continued from Page One years. One male from the Grampian area started his crime spree at 11 years old and by the age of 18 had notched up 258 crimes. He has been arrested for assault, vandalism and more than 100 driving offences, but has only been placed in custody some 52 times.

Another man in Grampian, aged 20, has been arrested 245 times for crimes including drug possession and racial abuse. The area covered by the former Grampian Police saw its top 20 criminals commit a total of 3,715 crimes, the highest number in our survey.

In Fife, 2,285 crimes were committed by a hard core of 20 criminals. The top 20 reoffenders from Tayside committed 2,175 crimes between them. One 34-year old man had 222 offences to his name, including 176 counts of fraud and 18 thefts, while another 18-year-old has been arrested for vandalism 178 times in the space of five years.

One boy was caught driving at the age of 13 and then went on to commit a further 162 crimes before he turned 19, including assault, theft and drug possession.

And in the former Central Scotland Police area, the 20 most prolific criminals committed 1,401 crimes between them.

Across Scotland, a total of 10,587 crimes were committed by a hard core of 100 criminals.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill set out his ‘soft touch’ manifesto early in 2008 when he said some criminals were ‘sad not bad’ and must be treated ‘with the humanity they deserve’.

He called for a radical change in approach to differentiate between ‘sad’ and ‘bad’ criminals and ruled out building more prisons because they would be filled up with ‘sad people who need to be treated and helped’.

He added: ‘We have inherited record figures and they are continuing to rise. That is why it is my obligation as the Cabinet Secretary for justice to try to draw a line in the sand.

‘We can’t go on as we are because our prisons are going to burst.’ Last night, Peter Cuthbertson from the Centre for Crime Prevention think-tank said: ‘These figures prove that more than 10,000 crimes could have been prevented with just 100 more criminals in prison.

‘Long prison sentences protect the public and also have much lower reoffending rates than community sentences.

‘The most serious repeat offenders are responsible for a growing percentage of all offences, suggesting we could cut crime dramatically with tougher sentencing.’ David Sinclair of Victim Support Scotland said that there was at least one victim per crime and this had an impact on their families and the wider communities.

He added: ‘I would suspect that the compilation of these figures will include offences taken into account at the time of arrests or court appearances.

‘What they highlight from the perspective of a victims’ support organisation is that all of the partners in criminal justice must continue their efforts to ensure that crime figures continue to fall.’ Some of these criminals have been fined, given warnings or received jail sentences as a result of their constant offending.

The statistics do not reveal whether the criminals are now in custody. In March, the Mail revealed that a hard core of 80 children as young as eight had been charged with nearly 3,500 crimes across Scotland, including rape and assault.

The country’s former eight police forces disclosed data on offences carried out by the ten most ‘prolific’ child criminals in their areas. Recently, Mr MacAskill said serial offenders would be given one-toone mentoring to stop the vicious cycle of repeat offending.

In one shocking soft-touch case from May 2011, a violent thug responsible for 160 crimes was allowed to walk free. Laurence Winters, of Perth, whose criminal record stretched back 24 years, was handed the country’s first ‘community payback order’.

It came after the SNP abolished short prison sentences, meaning that only 60 hours of community service was imposed on Winters at Perth Sheriff Court.

Last night, a Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Crime in Scotland is now at a 37-year low, helped by 1,000 extra officers in our communities, and reoffending rates are at a 13-year low.

‘But we want to go further, and are determined to break the reoffending cycle so that prolific offenders make a more meaningful contribution to society and enter a life free of crime.

‘That is why we are investing in a range of schemes through our Reducing Reoffending Change Fund to tackle reoffending at its core, including providing one-toone mentoring support for offenders to help keep them on the straight and narrow when they leave prison.’ w.robinson@dailymail.co.uk

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