HM Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland: annual report 2020 to 2021

The annual report of HM Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland for the year 2020 to 2021.

This document is part of a collection

About us

1. HM Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland is led by HM Chief Inspector of Prosecution who is appointed by the Lord Advocate to secure the inspection of the operation of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). The functions and powers of HM Chief Inspector are set out in the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007. The 2007 Act makes clear that in the exercise of any of the functions conferred by the Act, HM Chief Inspector acts independently of any other person. COPFS is the sole prosecuting authority in Scotland and is also responsible for investigating sudden deaths and complaints against the police which are of a criminal nature.

2. As well as securing the inspection of the operation of COPFS, the 2007 Act requires HM Chief Inspector to:

  • submit a report to the Lord Advocate on any particular matter connected with the operation of COPFS which is referred by the Lord Advocate
  • submit to the Lord Advocate an annual report on the exercise of her functions, which the Lord Advocate must lay before the Scottish Parliament.

3. When inspecting COPFS, HM Chief Inspector may require any person directly involved in the operation of the service to provide her with information.


4. The inspectorate's vision is to enhance the effectiveness of and to promote excellence in the prosecution service in Scotland through professional and independent inspection and evaluation.


5. The core values of IPS are:


to provide impartial and objective scrutiny of the service provided by COPFS


to undertake inspections with integrity, rigour, competency and consistency


to provide a service that enhances public confidence in the investigation and prosecution of crime and any deaths that need further explanation and any associated fatal accident inquiry proceedings in Scotland


6. IPS is committed to promoting equality and diversity. To this end, we consider the impact our inspections and recommendations may have on individuals, groups and communities. We consider the potential impact of our work on those with protected characteristics.

User involvement

7. Under section 112 of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, IPS has a duty to secure continuous improvement in user focus in the exercise of our scrutiny functions and to demonstrate that improvement. The inspectorate considers how to include service users, and those who represent them, in all our scrutiny activity. Their views and experiences are sought when scoping and planning inspections and in the evidence gathering stages. This is most commonly done through interviews, focus groups and surveys.

Our approach

8. We encourage an inclusive and participative process and, acting as an impartial and professional 'critical friend', aim to secure improvement across the system. We also seek to identify examples of good practice.

9. It is important that the work of IPS is relevant to the issues impacting our communities. In common with other inspectorates, our inspection activity has evolved to develop programmes aligning inspection resource to risk, taking into account intelligence such as performance data and stakeholder feedback.

10. IPS undertakes different types of inspection activity. These include:

Thematic reviews

11. Thematic reviews look holistically at services end to end. These can be focused on specific types of case work or business approaches. We will highlight good practice and make recommendations designed to drive improvement and enhance quality.

Follow-up reports

12. The main way in which inspectorates have impact is through their published reports and recommendations. For maximum impact and value from inspection findings, a robust follow-up process is a critical part of an effective inspection regime. Since 2014, IPS has embarked on a rolling programme of follow-up reports to monitor the progress of COPFS implementation of our recommendations and to evaluate the effectiveness and outcomes of measures implemented. Follow-up reports will continue to form part of our inspection cycle.

Collaborative inspections

13. It is recognised that some issues are best addressed by a multi-agency or partnership approach. IPS has previously conducted joint inspections with HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland. The inspectorate also liaises with Audit Scotland and other inspection bodies within the criminal justice system to ensure there is no duplication of work and that inspection activity is undertaken in a collaborative and complementary way. This includes participating in the Accounts Commission-led Strategic Scrutiny Group, which meets quarterly and comprises Scotland's main public sector scrutiny bodies. The group aims to deliver efficient and effective, well-coordinated scrutiny that supports improvement.



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