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Question mark remains over national roll-out of north-east police response pilot

By David Porter

A Conservative MSP says question marks remain over whether a controversial north-east policing pilot will be rolled out across Scotland, following a response to query raised in Holyrood.

In September, citing budget cuts, Police Scotland announced north-east crimes with “no associated threat, risk, harm or vulnerability” or “proportionate lines of inquiry” will not be investigated.

The Scottish Government previously said the results of this pilot approach will be “examined to ensure local priorities continue to be met with no detriment to communities.”

But in Holyrood on Wednesday, SNP minister Angela Constance said she hadn’t discussed the project since September 14, and did not answer questions over how the trial would be assessed or whether it would roll out across Scotland.

Liam Kerr, North East region MSP, motioned: "To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with Police Scotland regarding its north east pilot not to investigate crimes if that is deemed a proportionate response by the service."

In response Justice and Home Affairs minister Angela Constance said:"Let me be clear that Police Scotland will continue to investigate all reports of crime across all parts of Scotland.

"In the north-east where cases are assessed as having no risk or threat And where it is clear that there are proportionate lines of inquiry, callers will be informed that their report has been filed and received a crime reference number,

“However, should new information emerge, officers will investigate appropriately. And this is how Police Scotland has operated since its establishment and Police Scotland’s operational response is of course a matter for the Chief Constable however, I was updated on this matter by DCC designate (Fiona) Taylor on September 14.

Liam Kerr continued: "As this pilot will likely inform the government's view of local policing going forward, to slopey shoulder it as an operational matter does our officers and the victims of crime a disservice and given anecdotal evidence of victims feeling abandoned, criminals feeling there's a free for all and general public disquiet, is the Scottish Government minded to see this pilot go nationwide? And in any event, what are the measurements and outcomes that determine whether it has been a success?

She replied: "Let me be clear that despite how this pilot a matter for Police Scotland has been narrated, all crime reported will, as has always been the case, will be investigated under this pilot. That was the assurance that I received directly from Police Scotland. And Police Scotland ensure that threat, harm, risk, investigation, vulnerability and engagement is all assessed as part of their Thrive model.

"And if it is clear that there are no leads, and there is no risk in terms of threat harm vulnerability, the measures outlined in my original answer will be undertaken. The only difference between what currently happens and what is being trialled in this pilot is a quicker decision in relation to proportionate line of inquiry and the focus to answer Mr Kerr’s question in more direct terms, is I can assure him that the focus of this government will remain on keeping our communities safe from harm and ensuring that our police officers the length and breadth this country have the appropriate support to make their appropriate operational decisions."

Commenting post questioning Mr Kerr said: “Police Scotland have been very honest about the problems caused by cuts to frontline services.

“Officer numbers are at their lowest across Scotland since 2008, and this has unquestionably had a bearing on this trial.

“The least the public can expect is that police honesty being reciprocated by Scottish Ministers, and some expectation when results will be published.”

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