Return to Sender

IN the last three years, a staggering 160,000 warning letters have been issued in Scotland to those dodging fines handed out by the procurator fiscal.

Offenders accept these fines as an alternative to receiving a criminal conviction.

They can be given for serious crimes including assault, drug possession, vandalism, theft and breach of the peace.

The sheer number of warning letters that have been issued shows that they don't believe there will be any serious repercussions for not paying up.

It's clear that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill needs a warning letter of his own, telling him that his policy of issuing more and more fines to offenders has failed.

He needs to get a grip on the situation and ensure we have a system that sends out a clear message to those who have committed crimes that they need to face up to the consequences of their actions.

This is an important issue that cannot be ignored. If the Justice Secretary continues to turn a blind eye there is a danger that re-offending will increase.

The band of law enforcement officers who are responsible for chasing down fine dodgers will become demoralised. And people who report crimes and help to keep our streets safe will be discouraged from doing so again.

If the victims of crime are to have confidence, they need to see criminals being pursued, prosecuted and facing up to the consequences of their actions.

In other words, they need to see justice being done.