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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Railways 'under siege from vandals'
smashed train window
Train windows are typically vandalised
Scotland's railways are under siege from vandals, says one of the country's train operators.

The comments by Eddie Toal, spokesman for ScotRail, come as a report reveals that incidents of vandalism and trespass north of the Border are rising.

The figures, published by the British Transport Police, show that railway crime in general has gone down.

A total of 3,551 crimes were recorded north of the Border between 2000 and 2001 - a drop of 11% on the previous year.

I think we should have attempted murder for this kind of offence

Eddie Toal, ScotRail spokesman
However, there has been a worrying rise in the incidence of vandalism and trespass.

Stone throwing and trespassing offences both increased - by 17% and 9%.

Offences which blocked lines and obstructed trains also increased by more than 11%, as did driving offences, which rose by 160%.

In July this year, there were 25 cases of rubble being left on Scotland's railway lines.

Mr Toal said he wondered what motivated people to carry out acts of vandalism.

And he suggested that the penalties for those found guilty of the crime should be harsh.

Mr Toal said: "I think we should have attempted murder for this kind of offence, as serious as it sounds we have indications where people who have left slabs on the track have been given community sentences or the odd fine.

Tougher sentencing

"The view seems to be 'well nothing happened on this occasion'.

"But that seems to us as someone firing a loaded gun at a crowd of people and possibly saying as the defence, 'I didn't mean to aim it at anyone'.

"We think the railways are under siege from stone throwers and people who have the intentions of doing some serious damage."

Mr Toal said there needed to be tougher sentencing and a culture change within society.

He believed railway vandalism had to become a social "no no" in the same way as drink driving.

Transport Police logo
The figures were produced by British Transport Police
The 11% crime drop in Scotland was considerably better than the decrease of 2.4% in England and only slightly behind the Welsh figure of 12.7%.

The figures brought some good news - violent crime and sexual offences on trains decreased by nearly 11% and 9% respectively.

Assistant Chief Constable Sandy Forrest said: "Most categories of crime have shown a decrease, including violent crime and robberies.

"However, despite considerable efforts and proactive operations involving the police, railway companies, and with support from the Scottish Executive, there has been a worrying increase in trespass and vandalism offences."

Mr Forrest said that these incidents represented "a real hazard to Scottish rail users and staff".

He added: "Thefts of passenger property have also gone up and we need to encourage much better crime prevention in that area."

The latest figures on rail crime come one day after train operator ScotRail offered a 5,000 reward in an attempt to catch vandals who caused about 500,000 worth of damage to seven trains in Glasgow's Shields West maintenance depot.

Edie Toal, ScotRail spokesman
"People who commit these crimes should be charged with attempted murder"
See also:

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Award offered to catch train vandals
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Passengers hurt in train accident
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Crash families stage Railtrack demo
29 Jun 01 | Scotland
Rail firm defends safety record
05 Mar 01 | Scotland
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11 Dec 00 | Scotland
Flagship trains add to rail woes
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