4/29/2005Scotland Puts More Motorists in Jail Than Burglars
More Scottish motorists are jailed than burglars; 75 percent jailed for paperwork violations.
Burglars in Scotland should take the bus to work, since it's more likely that they'll be jailed for forgetting to pay a vehicle tax than for stealing from someone's home. According to figures released by the Scottish Executive, 1574 motorists were jailed in 2003 compared to only 1252 burglars. The motoring offenses resulting in jail time were overwhelmingly minor. Paperwork violations -- driving without a license, insurance, vehicle tax or registration -- put 1182 individuals behind bars. Only 386 were jailed for dangerous driving violations such as driving under the influence of alcohol.
Scottish Police Federation Chairman Norrie Flowers complained at his annual meeting last week about the lack of focus on serious crimes such as burglary. "We are not attending their calls quickly enough," he said. Often, by the time we get there, the housebreaker has gone, the mugger has fled, or simply we have been too late to make a difference."
Others suggested that the figures reflected a war on drivers by the UK government. "There is a ridiculous persecution of the motorist going on," said Nigel Humphries, a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers. "Many are simply being punished in a way that won't prevent further offences. Prison is intended as a method by which we remove dangerous people from society such as murderers, rapists and people who damage others. It is an improper use of the tool to send people to jail for a minor motoring offence."
Yet despite this, rapists, housebreakers and fraudsters are spending less time behind bars. About 8 per cent of those convicted of housebreaking receive community service rather than a jail term. The revelations sparked our Soft Touch Scotland campaign, aimed at highlighting the failings of the Scottish justice system. The number of break-ins recorded by Lothian and Borders Police has soared from 2,394 to 2,774, almost 16 per cent, over the past three years.