Criminals to pay for care of assaulted PCs

The Scottish government has said money from criminals will help police officers who have been assaulted.

Scottish courts have dealt with about 5,000 cases of assaults on police officers in the past two years.

In future, anyone convicted of such an assault will contribute through a restitution order.

Money raised would go the Police Benevolent Fund and the Scottish facility run by the charity Police Treatment Centres.

The proposal, which has been put forward by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, will be part of the forthcoming Victims and Witnesses Bill.

Mr MacAskill is to give details of the plan during a visit to Castlebrae Police Treatment Centre in Perthshire.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr MacAskill told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme the bill was intended to give sheriffs more powers and discretion over sentencing than they do at present.

'More discretion'

He said the bill would also include the possibility of a surcharge being levied so that those who have suffered from crime can get some recompense from those who have perpetrated it.

This would include, for example, compensation going to charities who held the victims of crime.

Mr MacAskill added: "At the present moment they (sheriffs) don't have the opportunity for a restitution order to go to, for example, the Police Benevolent Fund or to the treatment centre.

"So what we are looking to do is to give sheriffs and the judiciary more discretion, and I think this would replace a fine. It certainly wouldn't impede the position where somebody should go straight to jail because of the nature of the assault."

Mr MasAskill said he would be "happy" to look at the possibility of other emergency services, such as ambulance staff, firefighters and nurses, being covered by the legislation.

But he pointed out there was already a specific offence in Scots law of assaulting a police officer.

He said: "We do have police officers who face matters that none of the rest of us, in the main, in the course of our duties have to put up with, and we do have the Police Benevolent Fund and the treatment centre, so this is about bringing matters together."

Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, welcomed Mr MacAskill's proposals.

He said: "The SPF is delighted the commitment and often selfless bravery of our police officers to ensure the safety of others is being recognised through this excellent initiative.

"We believe this is the first time this approach has been tried anywhere in the world, which demonstrates the continued value the Scottish government places on its police service.

"Scotland's communities continue to enjoy record police numbers and record low crime. This initiative will help injured officers return to work and to their communities more quickly and will help to ensure the delivery of a world class police service to the people of Scotland".

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