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Scottish justice system no soft touch, Lord Advocate asserts

7 September 2017

Scotland's justice system is no "soft touch", the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, has insisted.

Mr Wolffe was speaking at the annual lecture held by Apex, a charity supporting former offenders. In his address he focused on the role of prosecutors, saying he preferred to describe them as exercising a professional judgment rather than a discretion in deciding when to bring a case.

His aim was consistency of approach, and while reasonable professionals might sometimes disagree, "I would not regard it to be desirable in our national prosecution service for different prosecutors to apply materially different approaches to similar offending, without good reason."

The Lord Advocate also defended alternative measures to prosecution, as making the accused face the consequences of offending more swiftly than with court proceedings, while conceding that the ability to use diversion measures consistently was "constrained by the diversity of provision in different parts of the country". He hoped the new national body, Community Justice Scotland, would help enhance such schemes.

The Scottish Government plans to raise the presumption against short prison sentences from three months to one year, a move that has been attacked by the Conservatives although Scotland still has one of the highest rates of imprisonment in Europe.

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