Plans to make criminals who assault police officers in the line of duty pay for their crimes have been unveiled by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.
The Scottish Government will also consult shortly on proposals for a victims’ surcharge, to create a fund to help the victims of crime.
Assault on police officers is an offence and is currently punishable by fines, imprisonment, a Community Payback Order or a compensation order.
Between January 1 2010 and February 28 2012 there were 4,890 convictions on charges of assaulting a police officer, something which is deemed an offence under Section 41 (1)(a) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967.
Under the new plans, another option would be a ‘restitution order’ which would see criminals pay cash to good causes.
The police scheme could see the proceeds of restitution orders donated to charities to help injured officers back to work such as the Police Benevolent Fund and the Castlebrae treatment centre in Auchterarder.
This would see officers assaulted at work receive the very best care, to allow them to quickly return to duty.
The orders would not replace the existing arrangements for compensation direct to victims.
Ministers aim to bring forward legislation to create restitution orders and a victims’ surcharge in the forthcoming Victims and Witnesses Bill which will also contain a package or measures to support victims more generally.
Mr MacAskill said: “We expect courts to deal firmly with those who assault our officers.
“Criminals should be made to pay for their crimes and it’s only right that victims should benefit.
“We are already considering plans to create a victims surcharge so that those who suffer from crimes can get the help they need to recover.
“Our police officers risk life and limb and put themselves in danger to protect the public.
“These officers often need and deserve treatment to restore them to full physical and mental health, and I pay tribute to the fine work of the Castlebrae centre in providing this.
“The Police Treatment Centres put right the damage done by criminal assaults largely with money raised by donations from the victims. This is the reverse of fair.
“Instead it is right to expect criminals who assault police to contribute to payment for this treatment. We believe proceeds from penalties should be paid into a fund for officers.
“This is a win-win situation which will result in restitution for offenders and recuperation for victims of crime.
“I intend to examine ways of achieving this by enabling sentencers to order criminals to pay into a fund to support their victims. An opportunity to legislate for this scheme is likely to be available next year.”
The Police Treatment Centres is a registered charity supported by voluntary donations from serving police officers primarily in the northern forces of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but also from British Transport Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police. Officers currently make a donation from their pay of £1.30 per week.
The charity provides two Treatment Centres where serving and retired police officers can receive rest, recuperation and treatment following an illness or injury with the aim of assisting their return to better health.
Currently the Centres are St Andrews, in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, and Castlebrae in Auchterarder, Perthshire.