Scotland’s criminal gangs are exploiting a “softening justice system” to peddle death on the streets, it has been warned.
Former crime journalist and recently elected MSP Russell Findlay warned underworld bosses across the country were “posing as respectable businessmen” while profiteering from the country’s drug death misery.
And Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), warned people caught with “dealer” quantities of drugs were unlikely to jailed.
In a series of tweets Mr Steele noted the SPF position on tackling drugs death, which is to focus attention on dealers and gangs while vulnerable users are spared prosecution.
Figures released on Friday show 1,339 people died of drugs related death in 2020.
‘Gangs get richer’
He said: “(There were) 1,339 drug deaths and at a time you’ve never been less likely to be kept in custody pending court appearance if caught with vast dealer quantities of drugs.
“While the misery continues, the criminal gangs get richer, and the criminal justice system becomes ever more emasculated.
1,339 drug deaths, and at a time you’ve never been less likely to be kept in custody pending court appearance if caught with vast dealer quantities of drugs. While the misery continues, the criminal gangs get richer, and the criminal justice system becomes ever more emasculated
— Calum Steele (@CalumA_Steele) July 30, 2021
“(It) was not that long ago if you got caught with dealer quantities of drugs, your house would have been turned, you would be in court the next lawful day and you could have expected a heft of a prison sentence.
“You know that at that time drug deaths were a fraction of what they now are.”
Give police powers to ‘go after dealers’
Scottish Conservative shadow community safety minister Russell Findlay said: “Scotland’s shameful drugs deaths toll must be primarily treated as a public health crisis, but drug dealers cannot be allowed free reign.
“In communities across Scotland, people see criminals posing as respectable businessmen, growing rich while dealing in death.
“Too many gangs seem to think they’re untouchable, this being due to the SNP’s relentless pandering to criminals and softening of the justice system.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s government must give Police Scotland, the Crown Office and courts the necessary resources to jail, disrupt and bankrupt those behind this pernicious trade.”
Government to ‘bring dealers to justice’
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While legislation governing the control of drugs is currently reserved to Westminster, the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce, chaired by the Justice Secretary, oversees a range of activity to reduce the harm caused by serious organised crime, including drug dealing.
“Taskforce partners are committed to making Scotland’s communities safe from serious organised crime, and will work tirelessly to bring those involved to justice.
“Despite UK Government austerity we have increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17 and have invested more than £10bn in policing since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013.
“Officers numbers are favourable relative to elsewhere in the UK with around 32 officers per 10,000 population in Scotland compared to around 23 officers per 10,000 population in England and Wales.
“We committed to investing £50 million this year to the Recover, Renew, and Transform justice programme to help drive reform of the justice system and increase the throughput of court cases.”