HM Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland: annual report 2021 to 2022

The annual report for HM Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland for 2021 to 2022.

This document is part of a collection

About us

1. HM Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland (IPS) is led by HM Chief Inspector of Prosecution who is appointed by the Lord Advocate to inspect the operation of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). COPFS is the sole prosecuting authority in Scotland and is also responsible for investigating sudden, unexplained or suspicious deaths and criminal allegations against the police.

2. IPS was first established in 2003, following an independent inquiry by Dr Raj Jandoo into the liaison arrangements between the police, COPFS and the family of Surjit Singh Chhokar, following the murder of Mr Chhokar and related prosecutions. One of the recommendations of the inquiry was that an inspectorate of COPFS be established, 'to introduce a measure of accountability, which is essential for public confidence'. After initially operating as a non-statutory body, IPS was placed on a statutory footing in 2007.


3. The functions and powers of HM Chief Inspector are set out in the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007. The role of the Chief Inspector is to:

  • secure the inspection of the operation of COPFS
  • 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.

4. The 2007 Act makes clear that in the exercise of any of the functions conferred by the Act, the Chief Inspector acts independently of any other person. When inspecting COPFS, the Chief Inspector may require any person directly involved in the operation of the service to provide her with information.

5. As well as the 2007 Act, there are a range of other duties to which IPS is subject, including duties of user focus and co-operation with other scrutiny bodies under the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, and duties derived from the Human Rights Act 1998 and Equality Act 2010.

Our purpose

6. Our statutory purpose is to inspect the operation of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Our vision

7. Our vision is to promote excellence and confidence in Scotland's prosecution service through independent, evidence-based scrutiny.

Our values

8. Our values underpin our approach to scrutiny. We always seek to demonstrate our values in the way that we work.


We act independently in all we do, providing impartial and objective scrutiny of the service provided by COPFS.


We deliver high quality, evidence-based scrutiny and report publicly on our findings. Our approach is rigorous but fair and proportionate.


The views and experiences of those individuals and organisations who are affected by the work of COPFS are central to our scrutiny activity. This includes victims, witnesses and next of kin as well as those who advocate on their behalf. We are also mindful of the experience of accused persons and those who represent them.


Respect for human rights is at the heart of what we do, and we support equal access to justice. We engage constructively with those we inspect, and we value the contribution they make.


We work in partnership with others. We support continuous improvement in COPFS, and we work with our scrutiny partners to support improvement across the criminal justice system.

What we do

9. Our focus is on the quality of the prosecution service being delivered to the public in Scotland. Our inspection reports highlight what is working well as well as areas for development and improvement. In all of our work, a key objective is to understand the experience of those for whom the service is provided. We make recommendations that, if implemented, will enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the service.

10. We seek to engage constructively with those inspected and to support them to deliver continuous improvement. We are mindful of the burden that scrutiny can impose on COPFS and seek to take a proportionate approach, minimising our scrutiny footprint where possible. We provide assurance to the Lord Advocate about the service being delivered by COPFS and our published reports help reassure the public that COPFS is independently scrutinised and held accountable, thereby enhancing public confidence in the justice system.

11. Issues for inspection are selected on the basis of risk and intelligence, and following consultation with the Law Officers, COPFS and stakeholders. The Lord Advocate has the authority to refer matters to IPS for inspection, meaning that a certain degree of flexibility in the programme is required to incorporate issues that emerge throughout the year.

12. We carry out different types of inspection activity, including thematic reviews, follow-up inspections and collaborative reviews.

Thematic inspections

13. Thematic inspections look holistically at an issue or a service end-to-end. These inspections can focus on specific types of case work or business approaches. In the early years of IPS, area-based inspections were carried out which reflected the structures and service delivery mechanisms within COPFS at that time. More recently, we have used thematic inspections to a far greater extent, reflecting the increased specialisation in COPFS and the functional nature of its current work.

Follow-up inspections

14. We also carry out follow-up inspections, to assess the progress made in implementing our recommendations. Follow-up inspections can provide information and reassurance to the Lord Advocate and the wider public that action is being taken in response to our inspection and that improvements in service delivery are being achieved. Due to our limited resources however, it is not possible to carry out follow-up inspections of all previous work.

Collaborative inspections

15. We actively seek opportunities to carry out our inspection activity in partnership with other scrutiny bodies. The effective operation of the justice system cannot be achieved by any one agency – it is dependent on a range of organisations working together at a strategic and operational level. When appropriate, a similarly collaborative approach should therefore be taken to independent scrutiny, to ensure that shared outcomes are being achieved.

16. To support this collaborative approach, we regularly engage with the other criminal justice inspection and scrutiny bodies, and we participate in the Accounts Commission-led Strategy 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.

Inspection Framework

17. Our inspection activity is supported by an Inspection Framework, which helps ensure we take a consistent, professional and transparent approach to our work. Based on the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model, our framework has six themes – outcomes, leadership and governance, process, people, resources and collaborative work. The framework informs all of our scrutiny activity but is also sufficiently flexible so that bespoke key lines of enquiry can be developed for each inspection. In recent years, the EFQM model has been updated and one of our tasks in the year ahead will be to review our own framework in light of developments in EFQM and ensure it continues to be fit for purpose.

User involvement

18. 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. We consider 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.



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