UNDER the Fiscal Fine system introduced by the Scottish Government in 2008, the procurator fiscal can offer offenders a fine as an alternative to appearing before a judge.
It was a measure designed to reduce the traffic in the courts and subsequently the cost and to allow swift justice for low level offenders.
Figures recently published by the Greenock Telegraph show that this policy may have gone too far. Hundreds of offenders have avoided criminal convictions for serious crimes including assault, drug possession and fraud.
In so doing, the Scottish Government has effectively decriminalised these crimes.
What's more, the evidence shows that there is nothing swift about the justice being delivered.
In the last three years, 4,500 warning letters have been sent for non-payment of fines. A total of 1,500 enforcement orders - which allow sheriff officers to take action against those who continue to duck and dive from payment - have been granted by the court. Despite those actions, roughly a third of fines issued in the last two financial years remain unpaid.
The unwillingness of offenders to stump up shows that they don't believe there will be any serious repercussions for their lack of action.
It also raises further doubts about the ability of the system to act as a deterrent and prevent further crime.
There are questions needing answered about the time, resource and cost that are associated with tracking down offenders who are avoiding fines.
It is time for the Scottish Government to examine the failings of this policy which clearly isn't working in the interest of victims.