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Another sheriff criticises summary choice

17 March 2006

A second sheriff has criticised the prosecution of a case under summary procedure because the maximum prison term he could impose fell far short of what he thought appropriate.

Sheriff Craig Caldwell declined to impose a custodial sentence on PC Alan Gavin, 43, who was found guilty last month of defrauding his insurance company and wasting police time after having his car towed to a local joyriders' haunt and set on fire beore claiming it had been stolen. The trial had heard how the car needed a repair that Gavin could not afford.

The sheriff said that as Gavin was a first offender, the most he could impose under summary procedure was three months, which would mean Gavin would be out in six weeks. He added: "I see no purpose in that whatsoever." If the case had been prosecuted before a jury, he said, the sentence would have been two or three years.

Yesterday Sheriff Michael Fletcher was reported as making similar remarks in the case of a man who carried out a series of frauds against local businesses.

A Crown Office spokesperson said that prosecution decisions were never taken lightly and always in the public interest. In each case the sheriff could have imposed a prison term but had chosen not to.