8.3 Focus on Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is the independent public prosecution service for Scotland and one of the organisations which form the Scottish Criminal Justice System.
This section provides results on adults' reported awareness of COPFS, any contact they had with the organisation, and their level of satisfaction with the way they were treated.
These findings are based on questions asked of one-quarter of the overall SCJS sample. As agreed with SCJS users, these results are generally not broken down within the report for population sub-groups. However, some breakdowns are presented here for illustration. All results for demographic and area characteristics are provided in the 2018/19 SCJS online data tables.
Did the public report knowing about the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service?
Most people were aware of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in 2018/19, but most did not know much about its work.
The 2018/19 SCJS estimates that almost three-quarters (72%) of adults in Scotland had heard of COPFS, with younger adults less likely to have heard of COPFS than older adults (39% of 16-24 year olds compared to 68% of 25-44 year olds, 84% of 45-59 year olds and 78% of people aged 60 and over).
Of those who were aware of COPFS, around two-thirds (63%) reported not knowing very much about its work, with a further 13% knowing nothing at all. One-in-five (20%) reported knowing a fair amount and only 4% reported knowing a lot.
Whilst many people correctly identified roles carried out by COPFS, almost half thought COPFS covered a broader range of responsibilities than it does.
The roles and responsibilities of COPFS are to investigate, prosecute and disrupt crime; establish the cause of sudden, unexplained or suspicious deaths; and investigate allegations of criminal conducts against police officers.
Adults who said they were aware of COPFS were asked to indicate what roles they believed are carried out by COPFS, choosing multiple answers from a list of four options (where two were correct and two incorrect). Almost three-quarters (74%) identified the correct role of COPFS in investigating and prosecuting crime and almost half (47%) identified the correct role in investigating sudden and unexpected deaths. However, almost half said they though COPFS decided on sentences for those found guilty of crime (47%) and represented the victims of crime in court (42%), neither of which are responsibilities of COPFS.
For illustration, when looking at victims of crimes in comparison to non-victims, a higher proportion of victims (85%) identified the correct role of investigating and prosecuting crime than non-victims (73%).
Have people had contact with COPFS, and how satisfied were they with the way COPFS dealt with them?
A quarter of adults have had contact with COPFS at some point, with the nature of the contact varying by gender.
Respondents were asked if they had personally ever had any contact with COPFS, including for professional reasons.
25% of adults that had heard of COPFS said they have had contact with COPFS at some point. This proportion was almost double for victims (41%) than non-victims (22%).
The most common ways in which adults had contact with COPFS included:
- as a witness of crime (28%)
- as the accused (25%)
- in another professional capacity (24%)
- as a victim of crime (17%)
Other ways in which contact was made are shown in Figure 8.11 below.
Base: All adults who have had contact with COPFS (250); Variable: QCOP5
Of those who have had contact with COPFS at some point, females were more likely to have had contact as a victim of crime than males (24% compared to 12%), as a relative or friend of a victim or witness of crime (11% compared to 2%) and as a bereaved relative in a deaths investigation (16% compared to 5%). Males were more likely than females to have had contact with COPFS as the accused (36% compared to 11%) and as a criminal justice partner (8% compared to 0%).
Overall, people were satisfied with the way COPFS dealt with them the last time they had contact.
Adults who have had contact with COPFS were also asked about how satisfied or dissatisfied they were in the way COPFS dealt with them the last time they had contact.
Over two-thirds (68%) of respondents said they were satisfied with the way COPFS dealt with them the last time they had contact, 16% were dissatisfied and 15% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.