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Virtual summary trials 'should be extended'

Aberdeen Sheriff Court
Crown Copyright

The use of virtual courts for summary criminal cases has been recommended for extension, after pilots in Aberdeen and Inverness were hailed a success.

Derek Pyle, Sheriff Principal for Grampian, Highland and Islands, said the aim should be that virtual trials "become the default method of judicial determination in summary crime”.

He is working with the Crown and defence agents to extend the use of virtual trials, while examining the full extent to which virtual trials can be used while coronavirus is still prevalent, and in the future.

His report recommends that virtual trials should be rolled out across the country in the autumn.

Police Scotland issue 46 lockdown fines a day

Paul O'Hare

BBC Scotland News

Police
Getty Images

Police Scotland issued 46 fines a day last week to people who flouted the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The force also made 33 arrests across the country related to violations of the Scottish government's guidelines.

The latest figures, for week ending 1 July, bring the total number of fixed penalty notices to 3,616. This is an increase of 322 (9.8%) on the previous seven days.

Fines start at £30, doubling to £60 if they are not paid within 28 days. Repeat offenders can face fines of up to £960.

Meanwhile, the number of arrests since the lockdown was introduced now stands at 283.

Figures for last week also reveal 33 people were dispersed "using reasonable force", 782 were "dispersed when instructed" and 5,218 were "dispersed when informed."

QC praises police use of emergency powers

Reevel Alderson

BBC Scotland Home Affairs correspondent

Police on patrol
Getty Images

The QC who has been monitoring the way Police Scotland has operated during the coronavirus pandemic has said the force has been doing a good job.

Speaking to a virtual meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), John Scott said the force had resisted demands for greater enforcement of emergency regulations.

A report presented to the SPA board said that from 27 March until 17 June there were more than 53,000 interventions using emergency powers - an average of 640 a day.

Data showed 92.8% of these were the dispersal of people, with only 6.6% of incidents involving enforcement action.

It also revealed the issue of fixed penalty notices or arrests was higher in the early stage of lockdown.

Prof Susan McVie of Edinburgh University, who has carried out research for the review, told the SPA board: "I think this demonstrates a high level of discretion in terms of the police having been given quite draconian powers."

Police fines for flouting lockdown measures plummet

Paul O'Hare

BBC Scotland News

Crowd on a beach
Getty Images

Police Scotland issued 35 fines last week to people who flouted the Covid-19 restrictions.

The figures, the second to be published since Scotland moved into phase one of lockdown easing, also revealed officers only made nine arrests.

The statistics show a 68% drop in the number of fixed penalty notices handed out, compared to 110 the previous week. This brings the total since the measures were introduced to 3,248.

Fines start at £30, doubling to £60 if they are not paid within 28 days. Repeat offenders can face penalties of up to £960.

The update, for week ending 10 June, confirms a dozen individuals were dispersed using "reasonable force" compared to 36 the previous week.

A total of 609 were "dispersed when instructed" while the number "dispersed when informed" was 2,449.

Police absence rate 'remarkably' lowest it has ever been

Holyrood Live

BBC Parliaments

Officer in PPE
Perth Picture Agency

The chief constable says while officers have been able to provide advice and enforce the law, Police Scotland has faced challenges in terms of staffing and PPE.

Mr Livingstone tells MSPs over 14,000 officers and staff now have access to PPE, with a dedicated team set up for sourcing and training on how to use it.

The absence rate is currently at 3.5%, Iain Livingstone confirms, which is "remarkably" the lowest it has ever been.

He says officers have been "very visible" in communities in recent months and the public has stepped forward to work with police services.

The chief constable also says the police officers remain concerned about those facing domestic or child abuse, adding: "Sadly for some people that stay at home guidance does expose them to greater risk of abuse, harm or neglect. We are aware unfortunately that virtual spaces are not also safe places for everyone.

"It remains a significant concern and priority going forward."

Fall in police lockdown fines but dispersal orders soar

Paul O'Hare

BBC Scotland News

Crowd at Luss
Getty Images

The number of fines issued by Police Scotland to people who flouted the Covid-19 restrictions plummeted by 56% last week.

The figures, the first to be published since Scotland moved into phase one of lockdown easing, also saw the weekly number of arrests fall from 30 to 11.

The statistics reveal 110 fixed penalty notices were handed out compared to 252 the previous week. This brings the total since the measures were introduced to 3,213.

Fines start at £30, doubling to £60 if they are not paid within 28 days. Repeat offenders can face penalties of up to £960.

But the update, for week ending 3 June, reveals the number of individuals dispersed using "reasonable force" doubled from 18 to 36.

Major increases were also recorded in the number "dispersed when instructed", which soared from 654 to 2,107, while the number "dispersed when informed" increased by 13% to 4,357.

Inverness care home disinfected after 'shocking' break-ins

A police officer and a police car
BBC

A care home has been disinfected after thieves targeted three care homes in Inverness.

Police said £700 was stolen from properties in Culduthel Road and Kinmylies Way.

Although nothing was taken from another home in Scorguie Avenue, owners said the scene had been disinfected as a precaution against coronavirus.

The Highland branch of Scottish Care described the break-ins and thefts as "absolutely shocking".

The incidents happened between the evening of Tuesday 2 June and the morning of Wednesday 3 June.

Read more here.

Police powers: Lockdown measures protect 'right to life'

Good Morning Scotland

BBC Radio Scotland

sign
Getty Images

A senior lawyer, who has been asked by Police Scotland to monitor the impact of lockdown regulations, says it is important the powers are kept under constant review.

John Scott QC said the measures have been judged necessary because they protect the right to life, but should only be in place as long as necessary and used proportionately.

But he told Radio Scotland that it would be right for further restrictions to be introduced if there is a resurgence of Covid-19 infections.

The QC added that he thought "common sense" had been applied in the majority of cases, both by Police Scotland officers and members of the public.

Because the path of the disease is not necessarily only in one direction - it's not always just going to go downwards - then the restrictions may be reintroduced or additional restrictions might be introduced or introduced on a regional or geographic basis

John ScottQC

Rescue of thousands of trapped salmon

Salmon smolts
Ness District Salmon Fishery Board
Salmon smolts in the Caleddonian Canal at Dochgarroch, near Inverness

Thousands of young salmon have been found trapped in a stretch of the Caledonian Canal.

The smolts were spotted because the water is so clear with no boat traffic due to lockdown restrictions.

The fish have been unable to find their way out of the canal and into the nearby River Ness, and then downstream to the sea, using what are called smolt passes, which were built in 1869.

Ness District Salmon Fishery Board is leading a rescue effort. It has asked Scottish Canals to "flush" the canal system between Dochgarroch and Muirtown in Inverness twice daily by opening large sluice gates on the lock gates. This allows the fish to swim downstream.

Volunteer constables donate over 25,000 hours since lockdown

Special Constables and police officers
Getty Images

Special Constables (SPCs) donated over 25,000 hours supporting Police Scotland in the two months after lockdown began.

The special constabulary is a part-time volunteer body consisting of officers with powers identical to those of police officers.

Following an appeal by Police Scotland in March, the number of hours SPCs were deployed for more than doubled, to 25,656, compared to the same period last year.

Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins said: “While SPCs have always been considered a vital and valued feature of policing in Scotland, it is more important than ever that their role is recognised and I would like to sincerely thank them all once again for their efforts."

Retired teachers could help pupils back to school

Retired teachers could be asked to return to work so class sizes can be reduced in the Western Isles.

Bernard Chisholm, education director at local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said it was an option being considered in preparation for schools reopening on 11 August.

He said school buses would have to carry fewer pupils and there would be social distancing measures on the transport.

Education management at Highland Council, meanwhile, is holding discussions on opening its schools on the same date. Its schools were not due to reopen after the summer holidays to pupils until 18 August.

The rules haven't changed yet, police stress

Iain Livingstone
BBC

The chief constable of Police Scotland, Iain Livingstone, says he wants to thank the "overwhelming majority" of the public for their cooperation over lockdown.

He says that as we progress through the phases of leaving lockdown, it is inevitable that police will move from "explaining, encouraging and where necessary enforcing restrictions" to a greater emphasis on guidance and advice.

Mr Livingstone says the approach of the police has been broadly to rely on the public doing the right thing.

But, he says, "the rules in Scotland have not changed" yet and "as a last resort" officers will enforce the law while they are out proactively policing until the change.

"Please stick with it," he urged.