Scotland's top policeman pleads for the force to keep seized proceeds of crime

Stephen House says it is 'nuts not to give us some'

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The Independent Online

The top policeman in Scotland has called for funds seized from criminals to be put back into police budgets.

Stephen House, the chief constable of Police Scotland, told the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents conference, that he is struggling to balance his budget, and has asked ministers for the cash boost.

At present, the majority goes to good causes through the Scottish Government’s Cashback for Communities scheme. But in England and Wales a chunk of the goes towards investigation costs and other policing initiatives.

Mr House told The Scotsman he needs to save £58 million this year, and similar amounts in the next two, warning that cuts could cause "irreparable" damage to policing.

He said: “I’ve been continually pleading with government to revisit money seized through proceeds of crime.

“We all know we are not a special case, but we are seizing millions of pounds every year from organised criminals for the state.

“We need some of that money to put into our budget – one, to close the gap, but two, to do more damage to organised crime. To deny putting assets of crime back into the criminal justice system is simply not right.”

He added it would be “nuts not to give us some” of the money seized from criminals.

Last month the Crown Office revealed more than £80m has been seized from criminals over the past decade, including £12m in the last year alone.

Lewis MacDonald MSP, Scottish Labour justice spokesman, said: “The idea of targeted money going into more recovery of funds is a good one.

“Proceeds of crime cannot substitute for multi-million funding cuts in core policing support. However, using some of that money to hit organised crime harder is a good idea.”

But Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “Our view is that policing in Scotland should be adequately funded by the Scottish Government.

“The cashback scheme is an excellent one, making people across Scotland feel that there is some form of compensation coming their way. That should not be threatened by diverting some of that money away.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: “We will continue to assess requests on a case-by-case basis, taking decisions based on their relative merits. We are currently considering a proposal from Police Scotland.”