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.

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Other inspectorate activity

Strategic Plan 2022-25

40. In early 2022, IPS began work on a strategic plan for 2022-25. The plan was published in June 2022 and sets out who we are, what we do and how we will continue to support continuous improvement in the service provided by COPFS and help strengthen public confidence in the justice system.[9]

41. The development of our first published three-year strategic plan reflects the inspectorate's commitment to our own continuous improvement. We reviewed what the inspectorate does well and where we can develop and improve our approach. We considered how we are fulfilling our statutory purpose and how we can build on our achievements and continue to deliver an independent and credible inspection programme that meets the needs of the Lord Advocate, COPFS, stakeholders and the wider public.

42. In developing our strategic plan, we revisited and refreshed our vision and values and identified five strategic objectives as well as underpinning actions which will guide us over the next three years. Our five strategic objectives are:

  • We will inspect the operation of COPFS and report publicly
  • We will increase awareness of and engagement and confidence in our inspection activity
  • We will enhance our organisational resilience and invest in our people
  • We will invest in our own continuous improvement
  • We will work with our partners to maximise the impact of our work

43. The strategic plan will be kept under review and updated as necessary to take account of emerging issues and feedback we receive.

Follow-up inspections

44. In 2014, IPS embarked on a rolling programme of follow-up inspections to monitor the progress made in implementing our recommendations. Due to our limited resources, however, it is not possible to carry out follow-up inspections of all previous work. In 2021, we agreed a new process with COPFS which is intended to result in a more proportionate, risk-based and intelligence-led approach to following up previous inspections. In response to our recommendations, COPFS will provide us with an action plan which we will use alongside supporting evidence about implementation to assess the progress being made and to inform decisions as to whether a follow-up inspection is merited.

45. Actions plans will usually be provided three months after an inspection report is published, although this may vary depending on the nature and urgency of the recommendations. The action plan should set out how COPFS intends to address each recommendation and the anticipated timescales. The development of the action plan will provide an opportunity for those leading the response to engage with IPS and discuss the findings and recommendations, proposed actions, prioritisation and the evidence that might be gathered to show progress on implementation. Action plans should also be shared with the COPFS Audit and Risk Committee, to ensure it is sighted on the work of IPS and the COPFS response to our recommendations as part of its broader oversight of audit and assurance activity.

46. Where IPS is satisfied on the basis of an action plan and supporting evidence that recommendations have been implemented, the recommendations will be closed. Progress will be reported in our annual reports to maintain transparency. Where there is insufficient evidence of progress, where intelligence or an assessment of risk suggests that it is necessary, or where it is in the public interest, IPS will continue to carry out follow-up inspections. A follow-up inspection may also be carried out at the request of the Lord Advocate.

Evidence to Criminal Justice Committee

47. In October 2021, we submitted written evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Criminal Justice Committee regarding its pre-budget scrutiny of the 2022-23 budget. While welcoming the significant increase that COPFS had secured in its budget the previous year, we expressed concern about the additional demands on COPFS arising from its usual business as well as its response to the pandemic.

48. We noted that additional demands had arisen from, for example, the increase in complex cases and investigations which require the gathering and analysis of greater volumes of electronic data. We also noted that the pandemic had increased the workload of COPFS in various ways, not least in respect of the backlog of cases. In addition, COPFS was required to establish a dedicated team to identify and investigate thousands of Covid deaths. COPFS was also facing rising staff costs as a result of efforts to ensure pay parity between its staff and government colleagues. We also commented on the impact of Covid on the justice system, drawing on the findings of our joint inspection of emergency criminal justice provisions introduced in response to the pandemic.[10]



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