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13,000 offences dealt with by British Transport Police in Scotland since 2011

13,000 offences dealt with by British Transport Police in Scotland since 2011

Scotrail train - Image credit: aureolindn via Flickr

British Transport Police has dealt with more than 13,000 offences on trains and at stations in Scotland since 2011, according to a FOI request by the Scottish Conservatives.

This includes hundreds for assault on staff and alcohol-related offences, the figures have shown.

The FOI statistics showed the Transport Police made 2,023 arrests last year, as well as 110 arrests in the first few weeks of 2017.

Of the incidents in 2016, 221 related to alcohol, while 197 arrests followed allegations of verbal or physical assaults on a staff member.

There have been more than 1,000 assaults on workers in total since 2011.

The Scottish Conservatives are opposing Scottish Government plans to merge British Transport Police with Police Scotland north of the border and claim the new figures highlight the risks involved.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Liam Kerr said: “The sheer numbers involved here show that taking away a dedicated service like the British Transport Police is a bad idea.

“What’s more, these are serious cases involving physical assault on staff and the abuse of alcohol.

“Passengers and staff alike respect the BTP and the job they do.

“Many suspect the motivation behind this move is for the SNP to get rid of the word ‘British’ from Scotland’s railways, and replace it with the word ‘Scotland’.

“If this move jeopardises the safety of workers and passengers, as these statistics suggest it might, then it must be resisted.”

Rail bodies have raised concerns about the proposed integration in consultation responses to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee inquiry on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

Issues have particularly been raised about specialist knowledge and cross-border working, as well as changes to staff pay and conditions.

The Rail Delivery Group said: “RDG understands that work has already commenced involving our members, the BTP and other stakeholders to ensure that there will be little or no impact.

“We are encouraged by the good work being done to resolve this matter.

“What remains of serious concern is the lack of an explicit provision in the legislation which will empower BTP officers (all post-holders including those carrying firearms and Taser) to carry out their lawful duty on the railway in Scotland without the need to seek permission from another authority or in practical terms having to stop at the border and await the arrival of officers from Police Scotland.

“Similarly, Police Scotland officers should be able to do likewise on the railway in England.”

And Scotrail’s submission highlighted the specialist response that a dedicated force has with regards to transport-specific incidents such as suicides on the line.

“Understanding the potential impact of incidents and crimes on the railway leads to different priorities in relation to some specific categories of crime and incidents than would be taken by territorial policing,” it says.

It adds that: “Experience from the Dutch railway industry has also shown that the withdrawal of a dedicated railway police service and integration with the national police force can lead to a loss of specialism over time.”

However, launching the Railways Bill in December, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson assured that feedback has been taken into account.

He said: “British Transport Police plays a valuable role in keeping Scotland’s railways safe and we will ensure railway policing has a strong future and is fully accountable to the people of Scotland.

“Safety will always be our top priority and rail passengers and staff will continue to receive the high standards of security on our rail network that they are used to, throughout the period of integration and beyond.

“We have listened closely to the issues raised by the rail industry, policing services and unions and we have offered a triple-lock guarantee that secures jobs, pay and pension conditions through the course of integration.

“We have been assured by Police Scotland that the specialist knowledge, skills and experience of BTP officers and staff will be protected and maintained within Scotland’s wider policing service.

“As part of Police Scotland, railway policing will benefit from their local support, specialist resources and expertise.

“Cross-border policing will continue to be seamless in both directions.

“Police Scotland has excellent relationships with their counterparts and we are working with the UK Government to ensure police have appropriate powers for the entire duration of cross-border journeys.”

**This article has been updated. The information from the Scottish Conservatives stated that the figure was 13,000 arrests, but British Transport Police has since clarified that the figure includes not only arrests, but also other options for dealing deal with offenders, including reporting the person to the procurator fiscal, issuing a fixed penalty notice or giving a verbal warning.**

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