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McSporrans criminal solicitors' latest news on all aspects of criminal & road traffic law.

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A raft of measures aimed at improving the criminal justice system have been outlined in the newly published Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.

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Six football fans were sentenced at Hamilton Sheriff Court this week for the parts they played in a disturbance in Hamilton town centre prior to the Hamilton v Falkirk football match on 5th January 2012. Four were served Football Banning Orders ranging from 12 to 22 months.

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A man was fined £200 and handed a six month Football Banning Order at Perth Sheriff Court earlier this month after attacking a steward at a Scottish Premier League game in October 2012. He was also admonished for a related Breach of the Peace charge.

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Last week a Glasgow car owner had his car clamped for failure to pay a police antisocial behaviour fixed penalty ticket, in the first case of its kind in Scotland.

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There was a flurry of Confiscation Orders granted by courts around Scotland in February. The actions saw the Serious and Organised Crime Division and the Civil Recovery Unit together recover around £325,000 from the proceeds of crime.

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Legislation designed to tackle sectarian behaviour at football matches is working well, according to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

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A man has been sentenced to carry out 110 hours of unpaid work and handed a three year Football Banning Order for running onto the pitch during a Dundee United versus Dynamo Moscow football match.

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The Scottish Government is consulting on plans to create a new licencing regime for air weapons. It is estimated that there could be as many as half a million unlicensed air guns in Scotland.

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‘Kerb crawlers’ trying to pick up prostitutes are being warned that they could face disqualification from driving in addition to any other sentence that a court can impose.

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The Scottish Court Service (SCS) has announced that 45 cars have been targeted nationwide during the past two months, as part of its measures to collect unpaid fines.

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A recent Audit Scotland report, Reducing reoffending in Scotland, has looked at the efficiency and effectiveness of approaches taken to address the problem of reoffending.

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Funding has been awarded by the Scottish Government to 23 organisations working across Scotland to help break the cycle of reoffending.

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The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has announced that householders in England and Wales will have greater protection from burglars in future.

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The Criminal Cases (Punishment and Review) (Scotland) Act came into force on 24th September, and closed a legal loophole which arose following the Appeal Court's judgement in the case of Petch and Foye v. HMA. The loophole had meant that prisoners given a discretionary life sentence or Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR) could apply to become eligible for parole earlier than those serving sentences of a fixed length.

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The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) has launched a new campaign across Scotland to highlight recent changes to the law on rape. The campaign also aims to change attitudes to rape and other sexual assaults.

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The Scottish Government has outlined its legislative priorities for 2012-13, in which Scottish Ministers aim to create a safer and stronger Scotland.

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All registered sex offenders in England and Wales now face much tougher checks. The new measures are intended to tighten areas of the current law that could be open to exploitation by offenders who seek to cause harm.

The changes, which the government announced in March this year following a 12 week consultation, will make it mandatory for sex offenders to notify the police:

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The Law Society of Scotland has raised serious concerns over the detail of new legislation which introduces financial contributions for many of those receiving criminal legal aid.

Submitting its written evidence to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee, the Society said the threshold at which contributions would become payable was too low. It also argued that the Scottish Legal Aid Board rather than solicitors should collect the contributions to ensure a consistent system.

The Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance Bill was introduced in May this year. The legislation would establish a Civil Justice Council and introduce financial contributions for criminal legal aid for the first time.

The Society has consistently supported the principle of contributions in criminal legal aid but has raised a series of concerns over the detail of the Scottish Government's proposals.

Oliver Adair, the convener of the Society's legal aid negotiating team, said:

"We agree that people who can afford to pay a portion of the cost of their legal aid should do, provided they can afford it.

"However the Bill proposes that the threshold for determining whether a contribution is payable should be £68 disposable income a week. We do not believe that is a realistic amount from which to expect anybody to pay towards their legal costs.”

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Overall crime measured by the 2011/12 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW, formerly the British Crime Survey) was unchanged from the previous year, according to the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, the provisional number of homicides (550) recorded by the police in 2011/12 dropped by 14% to the lowest level since 1983 (also 550).

Crimes recorded by the police fell by 4% in 2011/12, continuing the downward trend seen in recent years. Just under four million offences were recorded by the police, the lowest since 2002/03. Overall police recorded violent crime in England and Wales dropped by 7% (from 822,000 offences in 2010/11 to 763,000 offences in 2011/12) and robberies by 2%.

While burglary and vehicle theft recorded by the police also fell, other theft offences have risen by 2%, following a 4% rise the previous year. This was driven by increases in theft of unattended property (including personal property and commercial property such as metal), thefts from the person (such as pickpocketing), bicycle theft and shoplifting.

While the latest figures from the CSEW show no change in overall levels of acquisitive crime, this should be viewed in the context of large reductions since the mid 1990s. The latest estimates indicate that five in every 100 vehicle-owning households were victims of vehicle-related theft compared with 20 in 100 in 1995.

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The Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC has welcomed the drop in crimes of handling an offensive weapon reported in the statistical bulletin published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician. The publication presents statistics on crimes and offences recorded and cleared up by the eight Scottish police forces in 2011-12.

The figures show that crimes of handling an offensive weapon (which includes possession of an offensive weapon, restriction of offensive weapon and having in a public place an article with a blade or point) have decreased by 10% since 2010-11. This is a 44% decrease since 2006-07.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal service implemented a strengthened knife crime policy on 22nd July 2011. The overall aim of the policy is to reduce offending and re-offending and to provide an effective deterrent.

The knife crime policy states: Anyone found in possession of a knife: on licensed premises; when local gang involvement is probable; at a ‘hot spot’ for violence; and on public transport or at a bus or train station, are now prosecuted on petition and their guilt decided by a Sheriff and jury rather than by summary complaint.

This allows a greater sentencing power for the Sheriff and increases the maximum prison term from one to four years. There is a presumption in favour of prosecution on indictment where the accused has previously been convicted of a relevant offence or has a previous conviction for a violent offence involving the use of a knife. And there is also a presumption in favour of opposing bail when the knife is presented or brandished if the case falls into any of these categories.

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