I am delighted to have recently taken up the post of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prosecution in Scotland and would like to thank my predecessor, Michelle Macleod, for her valuable contribution and high quality thematic reports. During her six-year tenure, she began the practice of publishing follow-up reports to previous inspections, which have proven a useful tool in charting improvements within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and measuring the progress made against the inspectorate's recommendations. This annual report relates to 2018-19, Ms Macleod's final full year in office.
Appointed in November 2019, I intend to continue the inspectorate's practice of producing thorough, evidence-based assessments of the services provided by COPFS, with a view to supporting continuous improvement in their delivery. By providing independent scrutiny, the inspectorate will play a key role in supporting an effective criminal justice system and promoting positive outcomes for the public in Scotland.
I have been appointed as Chief Inspector of Prosecution at a time of change within COPFS and the criminal justice system more broadly. The Evidence and Procedure Review led by Lord Carloway is being taken forward through various pilots which will impact how courts take pre-recorded evidence from some of our most vulnerable witnesses and children, and how summary justice is delivered. The Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019 is due to be implemented in 2020 and contains, amongst others, important new provisions regarding how child witnesses will give evidence at solemn level involving a specified offence. This will have an impact on the day to day working of the criminal justice system and how COPFS supports victims and witnesses in the taking of their evidence.
Both COPFS and justice partners are committed to progressing better use of digital technology to improve the delivery of the criminal justice service. This year, COPFS has continued to roll out the case management application which enables prosecutors to present cases by accessing files through an iPad and the development of an advanced Witness Portal prototype.
I am pleased to note the announcement by the Crown Agent that additional funding secured from the Scottish Government to recruit additional staff will allow COPFS to improve the service it provides to the public and meet the challenges of complex case work. I intend to assess the impact of these additional resources next year on the journey time of cases within certain specialist units during my follow-up review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences as well as the further follow-up on fatal accident inquiries. During our initial follow-up report on fatal accident inquiries this year, we noted that it was disappointing that there had been little progress in shortening the timeline for mandatory inquiries and stated that the Inspectorate would return in 2020.
I would like to thank all who shared their experience and knowledge to help inform our work this year, as well as the Inspectorate staff for their continued support and assistance.
HM Chief Inspector of Prosecution in Scotland