Justice Committee Role and Purpose of the Crown Office

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Published in Scotland by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. All documents are available on the Scottish For information on the Scottish Parliament. Parliament website at contact Public Information on. www scottish parliament uk documents,Telephone 0131 348 5000. Textphone 0800 092 7100,Email sp info scottish parliament uk. Parliamentary copyright Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. The Scottish Parliament s copyright policy can be found on the website. www scottish parliament uk,Justice Committee, Role and Purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 1st Report 2017 Session 5. Executive Summary 1,Key terms 3,Introduction 4,About the COPFS 4. Inquiry remit 5,The Committee s scrutiny 7,Outline of the report 8.
The COPFS s resources and staffing 10,Demands on COPFS resources recent trends 10. Evidence from stakeholders 11,Staffing issues union views 13. COPFS response 15,2017 18 budget and effect on staffing 16. Latest developments COPFS corporate strategies 17,Wider reform 18. Efficiency and effectiveness of the prosecution service 21. Efficiency and effectiveness of the prosecution service 21. Early settlement versus churn 22,The COPFS s performance in a wider context 23.
Measuring efficiency and effectiveness 24,Efficiency of current prosecution system 26. Evidence from stakeholders 27,COPFS and SCTS views 29. Making the prosecution system work better 31,Digital strategy 31. Evidence and Procedure Review 32,Evidence from stakeholders 33. Latest developments new model for summary procedure 36. Effectiveness of the prosecution service 37,Overall view of witnesses 38.
Justice Committee, Role and Purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 9th Report 2017 Session 5. Domestic abuse cases 39,Standard summary cases 42,Specialist prosecutions 43. Bail and remand 46,Centralised policy making and local autonomy 47. Specialisation and central case marking 47,Other types of specialisation 47. Effect of central marking on local decision making 48. Views from COPFS representatives 50,Victims and witnesses and the COPFS 54.
Victims and complainers 54,The public interest and victims interests 54. The COPFS and the accused 56,The family of the accused 58. COPFS responsibilities to victims and witnesses 58. Special measures 59, Cross examination of victims and other witnesses 59. Victims and Witnesses Scotland Act 2014 60,Victims Code for Scotland 61. Child witnesses 61,Victim Information and Advice Service 62.
What VIA does 63,Who the VIA service helps 63,Third sector organisations and the VIA 63. Issues raised in evidence 64,General views 64,COPFS response 66. Views on the Victim Information and Advice Service 67. Special measures and the physical environment of the court 70. Contact with victims by prosecutors before a trial 71. Justice Committee, Role and Purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 1st Report 2017 Session 5. The Thomson Review on victim care 73,The future of the VIA service 74. Inspectorate of Prosecutions in Scotland 76,Role and resourcing 76.
Functions of the Inspector 77,Current work 78,Evidence received 78. Independence of the Inspectorate 78,Evidence of the Inspector of Prosecutions 80. Recommendations 82,Justice Committee, Role and Purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 9th Report 2017 Session 5. Justice Committee, Remit To consider and report on matters falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet. Secretary for Justice,parliament scot justice committee.
justicecommittee parliament scot,0131 348 5047,Follow the Justice Committee SP Justice. Justice Committee, Role and Purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 9th Report 2017 Session 5. Committee Membership,Convener Deputy Convener,Margaret Mitchell Rona Mackay. Scottish Conservative Scottish National Party,and Unionist Party. Mairi Evans Mary Fee,Scottish National Party Scottish Labour.
John Finnie Ben Macpherson,Scottish Green Party Scottish National Party. Liam McArthur Fulton MacGregor,Scottish Liberal Scottish National Party. Oliver Mundell Douglas Ross,Scottish Conservative Scottish Conservative. and Unionist Party and Unionist Party,Stewart Stevenson. Scottish National Party,Justice Committee, Role and Purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 9th Report 2017 Session 5.
Executive Summary, Last year the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service COPFS considered over. 225 000 reports about crime Each working day it decides whether to prosecute or take. some other action on hundreds of cases from minor traffic offences to murder. The head of the COPFS is the Lord Advocate a full member of the Scottish. Government but one whose independence as chief prosecutor is protected by statute. During almost five months of evidence taking the Justice Committee heard praise for. the COPFS its professionalism and its dedicated hard working staff On the whole the. public should have confidence that it is a rigorous and fair prosecutor. However the service remains under considerable pressure There can be no room for. complacency, Statistics in recent years indicate above average numbers of staff on sick leave or. reporting that they are overworked According to the prosecutors union the FDA the. COPFS s funding has declined in real terms by over a fifth in under a decade In 2017. 18 it expects to shed around 30 staff in reaction to budgetary constraints Meanwhile. pressures on the service have grown there are more complex cases the service s legal. responsibilities to the defence and to victims and witnesses have increased and reform. of the criminal law continues apace, Witnesses overall perception was of a just about managing prosecution service. lacking the time and resources to always get things right. It was widely agreed that the COPFS sometimes communicates poorly with other. stakeholders, The COPFS rightly prosecutes robustly certain types of case known to impact. heavily on victims However the Committee heard evidence that standard summary. cases which include instances of antisocial behaviour crimes of dishonesty or less. serious violent crimes are sometimes under prioritised. At the other end of the spectrum doubts were expressed about how well equipped. the service was to deal with more specialist prosecutions for instance health and. safety or complex fraud cases, In relation to prosecutions in domestic abuse cases and certain other types of case that.
the Lord Advocate has deemed to be prosecution priorities the Committee heard mixed. evidence on the one hand that the COPFS is prosecuting these cases with precisely. the rigour they deserve on the other that policies are being applied too rigidly and that. sometimes the wrong cases end up in court, The Committee also heard mixed views on the COPFS s drive towards a more. centralised and specialised prosecution service There was evidence that it had helped. drive up standards within the service However the overall perception was of a service. less attuned to local needs than in the past Local fiscals were seen as having less. capacity to exercise their judgment in individual cases This was seen as bad for. efficiency and bad for morale, There was a weight of evidence testifying to delays and postponements known as. churn during the trial process Churn wastes time and money and lowers overall. confidence in the criminal justice system The Lord Advocate made clear to the. Justice Committee, Role and Purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 9th Report 2017 Session 5. Committee that reform of the system is a personal priority but evidence during the. inquiry underlined that the COPFS cannot be the sole agent of change There are. systemic failings that it is beyond the power of the service to rectify on its own. The COPFS and Scottish Government have placed high hopes in an ongoing Evidence. and Procedure Review which aims to modernise and streamline criminal procedure in. large part by harnessing modern digital technology One of its main proposals is to. greatly reduce the amount of evidence that needs to be taken in court If this can be. achieved there is real potential to make the system much more efficient. However the Committee is concerned that there is no timeline for completion of the. Review and is not certain whether the COPFS and other agencies will have the. resources they need to fully implement it In the meantime there is more the COPFS. could do to both reduce and mitigate inefficiencies. It should avoid scheduling trial dates that are unlikely to proceed. It should find better and quicker ways to notify scheduling changes to witnesses. Having witnesses waiting for hours each day for hearings that are almost certainly. not going to proceed is unacceptable, Victims and access to justice should be at the heart of the prosecution process but. whilst the COPFS rightly prosecutes in the public interest it is not the victim s lawyer. The balance it must strike is not always easy particularly in a time of limited resources. when the service s main focus is often simply on keeping the system working. Here the Committee was concerned by evidence that the current process sometimes. leaves victims and witnesses feeling marginalised Many spoke of the lack of contact. they had had with the service before or during the trial or highlighted errors of. communication Others went further saying that the experience of taking part in a trial. had re traumatised them made them feel unsafe and left them questioning whether. they would go through it again Addressing this issue is of the utmost importance. Giving evidence in a criminal trial is not an easy or pleasant experience but the. evidence the Committee received raised questions as to whether the current system of. which the COPFS is a key part fully meets its duty of care towards victims and. witnesses The COPFS itself has acknowledged that change is needed The Committee. believes that there is a need for the Scottish Government to review victims rights. During the inquiry the Committee also sought views on the Inspectorate of Prosecution. which provides an independent check on the COPFS Two issues emerged the. Inspectorate s low profile and the lack of awareness of its output and a perception that. its independence may be compromised by routinely employing seconded or former. COPFS staff The Committee believes that both issues must be addressed if the. Inspectorate is to fulfil the role it was intended to carry out when it was established. Finally the Committee notes with concern the reluctance of some COPFS employees. to come forward to express their views during the inquiry. Justice Committee, Role and Purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 9th Report 2017 Session 5.
An outline of the prosecution process in Scotland is set out in paragraphs 71 and 72. Lord Advocate Ministerial head of the COPFS and chief prosecutor High Court. cases are prosecuted in his name He is a Minister and member of the Scottish. Cabinet Like his recent predecessors the current Lord Advocate James Wolffe. QC is a career lawyer rather than an elected politician but as a Minister he is. bound by the doctrine of collective responsibility 1. Solicitor General his deputy currently Alison di Rollo QC a junior Minister. Crown Agent chief executive of the COPFS and chief legal adviser on. prosecution matters to the Lord Advocate, Advocates Depute one of two main branches of the prosecution profession these. are High Court prosecutors normally senior advocates or solicitor advocates. recruited for a particular period after which they may return to private practice. Those prosecuting the most serious or complex High Court or appeal cases are. Senior Advocates Depute, Procurators fiscal area heads of the prosecution service for sheriff and JP court. cases or heads of specialist prosecution units for non High Court cases They are. assisted by fiscals depute Traditionally there has been more of a career structure. within the fiscal service than at advocate depute level with some fiscals spending. their entire professional career in the service, Solemn procedure the procedure for the most serious crimes with the most. serious of all usually murder rape or other serious sexual offences dealt with in. the High Court the rest in the Sheriff Court Trials under solemn procedure are. before a jury, Summary procedure less serious criminal cases which are heard in either the. Sheriff or JP Court The vast majority of cases are dealt with under summary. procedure There is no jury in a summary trial,Justice Committee.
Role and Purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 9th Report 2017 Session 5. Introduction, 1 The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service the COPFS plays a critical role. at the heart of Scotland s criminal justice system It has been almost 15 years. since the completion of the last major Parliamentary inquiry into the service 2 In. that time the profile and reporting of crime in Scotland has changed in tandem. with wider social and demographic changes Significant legal developments. affecting both criminal offences and criminal procedure have placed new. responsibilities on prosecutors whilst court judgments. Justice Committee Role and Purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 1st Report 2017 Session 5 Contents Executive Summary 1

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