A MOCKERY OF JUSTICE; Fury as 30,000 Suspects Are Allowed to Evade the Law 30,000 Suspects Avoid Arrest Warrants

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Byline: MARCELLO MEGA

MORE than 30,000 suspected criminals are on the run after being freed on bail by Scotland's courts.

The shock figure includes 8,000 people wanted for violent crimes, including murder, rape and sex offences.

The statistics reveal the extent of the crisis facing the Scottish criminal justice system.

They emerge as the Scottish Executive prepares to announce a raft of new laws designed to crack down on bail jumpers in the wake of the murder of Livingston schoolboy Rory Blackhall, whose suspected killer Simon Harris was on bail for sex offences when the crime was committed. Until the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights into Scots Law, bail for alleged murderers and sex offenders was given only in exceptional circumstances.

It is now granted in almost all cases, with armed robbery being the major exception. Opposition politicians have called for an end to the 'bureaucratic mess' and demanded the public be better protected by the courts.

Tory justice spokesman Annabel Goldie said: 'These figures reveal a very alarming picture which will horrify the public. Victims of crime will feel dismayed and betrayed. The way in which bail is operated is not working, is failing the law-abiding public and allowing many people charged with serious crimes to escape justice.

'It is also tying up valuable police time trying to track down miscreants, a substantial number of whom should never have been out on bail in the first place.' The SNP's justice spokesman, Kenny MacAskill, said: 'Far too many people are being given bail when it's clearly inappropriate because they represent a major danger to the public.

'We have a bureaucratic mess at the moment and we need a review to bring us into the 21st century.' Senior police officers privately welcomed The Mail on Sunday's research on warrants and said they hoped it would make the politicians pay heed to the desperate need to reform the system.

A senior member of the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland said: 'You can well imagine the frustration we feel, time and time again, to look at crime figures for persistent offenders and to note that, in the majority of those cases, we have taken the person off the street, often several times, only to see him bailed. …