Tayside Police have been accused of giving alleged offenders an ”easy ride” after bosses encouraged officers to consider alternatives to arresting them.
The instruction came in an internal email issued in anticipation of potential industrial action by Dundee and Perth solicitors at local courts.
It is understood Angus lawyers will meet later this week to discuss their options regarding potential strike action.
Officers were advised to give full consideration to ”discretion and other available disposals” after today was identified by Dundee’s procurator fiscal as the ”most impactive” choice for a protest.
The email, sent by Chief Inspector Conrad Trickett to ”All Central” colleagues on Friday, stated: ”The Perth and Dundee Bar Association have voted to support the ”industrial” action by solicitors.
”PF Helen Nisbet has no information about when the action may take place but assesses that court on Tuesday 27 November following the holiday Monday would be the most impactive day for such a protest.
”Whilst officers should not be deterred from arresting offenders where necessary; full consideration should be given to use of discretion and other available disposals to try to minimise impact on custody arrangements and those of our criminal justice partners, which will already be stretched after a holiday weekend.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: ”We sympathise with lawyers’ concerns over SNP proposals, but we can’t allow them to hold a gun to the head of the criminal justice system. In light of this email, that appears to be exactly what has happened.
”It is almost unbelievable that police officers in one of Scotland’s major cities should go into their shift with this message ringing in their ears. It also means for an entire weekend alleged criminals who would normally be arrested and brought to justice have clearly been getting an easy ride.”
The email was sent to officers hours after the Dundee Bar Association voted unanimously to take part in local and national action in ”forms and dates that will not be disclosed”.
The proposed action is in response to the Scottish Government’s plan to make solicitors collect Legal Aid contributions from their clients in summary criminal cases.
Sheriff courts were closed on Monday, leading to an extra day’s worth of remanded prisoners set to appear from custody today.
A Tayside Police spokeswoman said: ”An internal message went out on Friday reminding officers of the options available to them when dealing with incidents. Above all, it specifically advised them not to be deterred from arresting offenders where necessary. That could not have been clearer.
”Tayside Police rightly encourages its officers to solve problems and apply an outcome-focused approach to incidents they attend. They are trained and experienced in the use of judgment and the application of discretion. A range of other options are also available to police officers including warnings and tickets.
”In the event, the numbers of people in custody were in line with what we would expect from a holiday weekend.”