Chapter 16: Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is the sole public prosecution authority in Scotland, prosecuting cases independently, fairly and effectively in the public interest. It is also responsible for investigating sudden, unexplained and suspicious deaths and allegations of criminal conduct by police officers.
The Lord Advocate has Ministerial responsibility for the work of the Service. His position as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths is enshrined in the Scotland Act 1998 and he exercises that responsibility independently of any other person.
The complexity and profile of casework which the Service deals with has changed significantly in recent years. There is an increase in complex cases which require longer investigations and court hearings. The gathering and analysis of evidence is more time-consuming because of the expanded use of social media and electronic communications and the Service increasingly relies on the evidence of expert witnesses to interpret technical, scientific and medical issues.
COPFS' strategic priorities continue to:
- maintain the rule of law and the administration of justice in Scotland;
- secure justice for the people of Scotland through the independent, effective and fair investigation and prosecution of crime in the public interest;
- investigate sudden and unexpected deaths in order to identify their causes and, where appropriate, so that lessons are learned from avoidable deaths;
- underpin public confidence in the police through the independent, effective and fair investigation and prosecution of criminal allegations against police officers; and
- help to protect individuals and communities from harm, including through the use of the powers available under the Proceeds of Crime Act and otherwise.
COPFS supports the Scottish Government's National Outcomes in the National Performance Framework and the 'Justice in Scotland: Vision and Priorities' paper. The Service seeks to contribute to delivering a just, safe and resilient Scotland, in particular by:
- delivering high quality casework;
- improving its service; and
- supporting its people.
COPFS will deliver high quality casework through independent, robust, fair and effective professional decision making, case preparation and presentation and, in particular, will:
- continue to investigate and prosecute all reports of criminality (including allegations of criminal conduct by police officers) independently, effectively and fairly;
- continue to investigate sudden and unexpected deaths in order to identify their causes and, where appropriate, so that lessons can be learned from avoidable deaths;
- secure timely justice through appropriate prosecutorial action, achieving the right outcome, in the public interest, at the earliest opportunity;
- take appropriate prosecutorial action, including offering diversion and other alternatives to prosecution where these are in the public interest;
- shorten the time taken to complete complex investigations;
- promote the early resolution of summary criminal cases in three summary pilot courts;
- treat victims, witnesses and nearest relatives with respect and respond to their individual needs;
- respect and uphold the rights of those accused of crime;
- support children and vulnerable witnesses to give evidence in a way that is appropriate to them;
- recover the proceeds of crime, in particular, from organised crime and serious economic crime; and
- contribute to tackling inequality through the investigation and prosecution of hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual offending.
Quality of service priorities
COPFS will improve the quality of service which it provides by modernising the way it works and supporting wider reform of the criminal justice system and, in particular, will:
- improve communication with victims, witnesses and next of kin;
- implement the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019 to provide children with the opportunity to give their evidence before the start of a trial;
- support the implementation of the Scottish Government's Justice Digital Strategy and its development of a digital evidence sharing system;
- implement the COPFS Corporate Digital Strategy;
- develop proposals to expand the use of tablet computers to present digital solemn casework;
- develop and implement improved digital services for the public;
- continue to implement the High Court improvement project, improving and shortening the time taken to complete the investigation and preparation of High Court prosecutions;
- continue to implement the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU) Modernisation Programme, improving the system for the investigation of deaths;
- provide the capability to work productively across our network of local offices;
- automate business and administration tasks, saving storage space and reducing printing, paper and postage;
- support shared digital working with the NHS; and
- support a UK Government proposal to deal with unpaid road traffic penalties through fines enforcement.
COPFS will support its people by building a skilled, engaged and diverse workforce, investing in staff development and strengthening the capacity to deliver an improved service and, in particular, will:
- build a more engaged, diverse and flexible workforce;
- maintain recruitment to replace staff who leave during the year and recruit additional staff where required to deal with the changing caseload;
- continue to reduce non-staff costs, in particular our estates costs, in order to maintain recruitment of skilled staff;
- secure and implement a fair pay deal within the terms of the Scottish Public Sector Pay Policy;
- promote wellbeing measures and effective management targeted at reducing sickness absences to the average level for the UK Civil Service;
- implement simplified career development and performance management processes as part of the 'Fair Futures' transformation programme;
- implement a new project called 'Future Ways of Working' to bring together modern digital technology, improvements to our offices and simplified working policies to allow more flexibility in making decisions about where and how staff work;
- implement a new programme for all trainee solicitors to allow them to undertake supported court appearances in the first year of their traineeships;
- develop proposals to adopt an apprenticeship model supported by the Law Society of Scotland as a route to qualification as a solicitor;
- invest in the skills and knowledge which our people will need to excel; and
- invest in the development of future leaders to inspire and engage staff.
Table 16.01: Spending Plans (Level 2)
|Level 2|| 2018-19
|Total Fiscal Resource||108.4||113.4||124.9|
|UK Funded AME||-||-||-|
|Total Limit on Income (accruing resources)||2.0|
What the COPFS budget does
COPFS receives reports of crimes from the police and other reporting agencies. It assesses whether there is sufficient evidence to take prosecutorial action, and, if so, what action is in the public interest. In appropriate cases, it directs investigations by the police. Prosecutors in COPFS prosecute all forms of crime before the High Court, Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace court and impose direct prosecutorial measures.
The Service takes action to assess and recover proceeds of crime; co-operates with counterparts in other jurisdictions; and assists victims and witnesses. COPFS also investigates deaths which require further explanation and complaints of criminal conduct against police officers.
Table 16.02: Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Spending Plans (Level 3)
|Level 3|| 2018-19
|Centrally Managed Costs||17.0||16.0||17.4|
|UK Funded AME||-||-||-|
Contributions to National Outcomes
This table summarises the portfolio's contributions to the Outcomes of the National Performance Framework.
Table 16.03: National Outcomes
Primary National Outcome: Communities
Secondary National Outcomes: Human Rights, Economy
COPFS will contribute to the further development of communities so that they are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe, by securing justice through independent, robust, fair and effective decisions, case preparation and presentation. The Human Rights National Outcome is progressed by: upholding and promoting the rule of law and human rights; ensuring victims, witnesses and nearest relatives are treated with respect and their individual needs are responded to; respecting and upholding the rights of those accused of crime and supporting children and vulnerable witnesses to give evidence in a way that is appropriate to them.
Quality of Service
Primary National Outcome: Communities
Secondary National Outcomes: Human Rights, Economy, Environment
COPFS will contribute to communities which are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe by delivering an improved level of public service which is person-centred, modern and affordable.
Primary National Outcome: Communities
Secondary National Outcomes: Human Rights, Economy, Fair Work and Business
The Communities National Outcome is progressed by responding to crime which has a significant adverse impact on individual victims and their immediate families and which also adversely affects the wider community. Work to progress this National Outcome includes: working to shorten the time taken to complete complex investigations and promote the earlier resolution of summary cases; supporting children and vulnerable witnesses to give evidence in a way that is appropriate to them, in particular by recording their evidence before a trial; recovering the proceeds of crime, in particular from organised crime and serious economic crime; and contributing to tackling inequality through our investigation and prosecution of hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual offending. The Economy National Outcome is progressed by: continuing to invest in its Serious and Organised Crime Unit and its Economic Crime Unit in order to promote the rule of law and legitimate economic development in Scotland and supporting the building of sustainable and inclusive growth by enforcing the framework of regulation that underpins a successful Scottish economy. The Fair Work and Business National Outcome is progressed by maintaining recruitment to replace staff who leave and recruiting additional staff to deal with changing caseloads, ensuring that staff welfare is prioritised in a rapidly changing working environment and building a more engaged, diverse and flexible workforce; and investing in projects to improve wellbeing, 'Fair Futures' and 'Future Ways of Working'.