Investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes: review

The Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland's review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Key Terms

Accused: Person charged with committing a crime.

Advocates Depute: Advocates Depute are prosecutors appointed by the Lord Advocate. Advocates Depute prosecute all cases in the High Court.

Appear on Petition/Committal for Further Examination ( CFE): First appearance of an accused at court.

Bail: The release from custody of an accused person until the trial or next court hearing.

Bail Conditions: Conditions imposed by the court on the accused usually designed to protect victims and the public.

Case Preparer: Members of COPFS staff who interview witnesses and prepare cases for court in solemn (High Court) proceedings.

Child Offender: Child charged with committing a crime.

Corroboration: Requirement for each essential element of a crime to be corroborated by another source of direct or circumstantial evidence (i.e. the testimony of at least one other witness). [15]

Crown Counsel: Collective term for the Law Officers (Lord Advocate and Solicitor General) and Advocates Deputes.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS): The independent public prosecution service in Scotland. It is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crime in Scotland. It is also responsible for the investigation of sudden, unexplained or suspicious deaths and the investigation of allegations of criminal conduct against police officers.

Dedicated Floating Trial: Trial allocated to a particular High Court that can start on one of a number of days within the same week.

Indictment: Court document that sets out the charges the accused faces at trial in solemn proceedings.

Law Officers: The Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland.

Lord Advocate: The Ministerial Head of COPFS. The senior of the two Law Officers, the other being the Solicitor General.

Moorov Doctrine: Incidents sufficiently closely connected in time, character and circumstances that can be treated as a single course of conduct. [16]

National Sexual Crimes Unit ( NSCU): A body of senior Crown Counsel specialising in the investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes.

Place on Petition: Decision by prosecutor to commence solemn criminal proceedings.

Petition: Formal document served on accused in solemn proceedings. It gives notice of charges being considered by the Procurator Fiscal.

Preliminary Hearing ( PH): Procedural hearing in all High Court cases. The purpose is to determine the state of preparation of the defence and the prosecution and to resolve all outstanding issues prior to the trial commencing.

Procurators Fiscal ( PFs): Legally qualified prosecutors who receive reports about crimes from the police and other agencies and make decisions on what action to take in the public interest and, where appropriate, prosecute cases.

Solemn Procedure: The procedure for the prosecution of serious criminal cases before a judge and jury in the High Court or Sheriff Court.

Victim Information and Advice ( VIA): The dedicated service offered by COPFS to victims, witnesses of certain crimes and bereaved relatives affected by certain types of death.


In law, the term complainer is used to describe the person against whom it is alleged a crime has been committed. Women and men who have experienced sexual violence, prefer to use “survivor”.

In this report, we have used the term ‘victim’ for the person against whom it is alleged a crime has been committed. It is the terminology used in legislation and is commonly understood. It makes no assumption about the veracity of the allegation(s).

A more detailed explanation of the law and procedure applicable to solemn sexual crimes is set out at Annex A.

List of abbreviations:

1995 Act: The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995

2002 Act: The Sexual Offences (Procedure and Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2002

2004 Act: The Vulnerable Witness (Scotland) Act 2004

2009 Act: The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009

2014 Act: The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014

2016 Act: Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016


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