Annual Report: Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland
1. CREATION OF INSPECTORATE
The creation of the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland was the first recommendation of the Jandoo report into the handling of the death of Surjit Singh Chhokar.
Following the creation of a project team and a public consultation exercise the Inspectorate was established in December 2003 and a team of staff recruited to commence the first work of the Inspectorate under an interim Chief Inspector.
2. APPOINTMENT OF CHIEF INSPECTOR
A public recruitment exercise took place in early 2004 and following an open competition the first Chief Inspector was appointed in August 2004.
3. SECURING INDEPENDENCE
At the time of publication of the Jandoo report the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS) had an Internal Quality and Practice Review Unit which reported to the Crown Agent as the internal civil service head of the department and its reports were not automatically published or disseminated externally.
All inspectorates seek to achieve independence and the project team looked at some principles common to other organisations including (among others) the need to have freedom in the areas and topics to be covered, publication of reports, separation from the department inspected, a statutory basis, lay involvement, independent of pressure groups, transparency and evidence based conclusions.
To secure the independence of the Inspectorate a number of steps have been taken including the following:
- The budget was transferred to the Finance and Central Services Division of the Scottish Executive in April 2004. A budget for the first three years of the Inspectorate's life was agreed.
- A Memorandum of Understanding was agreed in 2004 among the Lord Advocate, the Chief Inspector and the head of Finance and Central Services of the Scottish Executive (the Inspectorate's sponsor Department). This dealt with the aims, functions and status of the Inspectorate and defined responsibilities; in particular it provided that the Chief Inspector should not be subject to direction on how inspection is carried out.
- The Inspectorate became operational in December 2003 on an administrative basis albeit divorced from the COPFS and gathered information etc under the authority of the Lord Advocate to whom all its reports were submitted.
As part of the public consultation exercise it was proposed that the Inspectorate be placed on a statutory basis and an early legislative opportunity sought to do this. This would enhance the independence and status of the Inspectorate and place it on an equal footing with other Criminal Justice Inspectorates such as Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons. It would help to distance the Inspectorate from COPFS and set it apart from its management structure.
Accordingly, sections have been inserted in the Criminal Proceedings etc (Reform) (Scotland) Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament to achieve this. This mirrors similar legislation in England establishing the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate.
- Wide use is made of lay input in various forms including membership of reference groups formed to assist with reports, questionnaires to system users and others and meetings with relevant groups.
- The Chief Inspector reports to and is directly accountable to the Lord Advocate bypassing the internal management structure of the Department.
- All of the reports of the Inspectorate are published.
4. RECRUITMENT OF STAFF
During 2006 the Inspectorate achieved its complement of six staff comprising three legally qualified staff (the Chief Inspector, a Principal Inspector and a Legal Inspector) together with an Admin Inspector with an audit background, a Statistician/Researcher and the PA.
5. ACCOMMODATION AND IT
The Inspectorate continues to occupy an office in Glasgow separate from COPFS premises. A move to new premises in Glasgow is planned for Spring 2007 when the current lease expires.
COPFS continues to give access to its IT systems (essential for inspection work) in terms of the protocol previously agreed and the Inspectorate has separate access to the Scottish Executive Scots IT system.
A dedicated Inspectorate website has been created ( www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/ipis ). All reports are published here and background and further information is available.
6. INITIAL WORK OF THE INSPECTORATE
The Jandoo report had recommended that the first work of the new Inspectorate should be a thematic report on the handling of race issues by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. This report was delivered to the Lord Advocate in November 2004 and subsequently published. It contained 12 recommendations all of which were accepted by the Lord Advocate.
Dr Jandoo in his report had also recommended that the Inspectorate should conduct a thematic inspection of the response of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service on victim and witness issues. This led to a joint thematic report in conjunction with Victim Support Scotland's Witness Service on "the provision of services to witnesses" and was delivered to the Lord Advocate in March 2006. This contained six recommendations and again these were accepted by the Lord Advocate.
Additionally Dr Jandoo had recommended regular audits by the Inspectorate of the then Regional (now Area) and District Offices of the Procurator Fiscal Service in order to ensure uniform compliance with the Department's race relations policies and strategies. Since the Inspectorate's inception 26 such inspections have taken place in accordance with a work programme which provides for at least 1 office being inspected each month. The results of these office inspections are summarised in Annex A. The number of these was increased during 2006 from 12 to 18 and all offices should be inspected by early 2007.
It was also intended, in line with current thinking on the inspection process generally, to conduct cross-cutting joint thematic reports with Criminal Justice Partners wherever possible. A joint thematic was therefore agreed with HM Inspectorate of Constabulary on case management and this was published on 24 August 2006 and contained 14 recommendations submitted jointly to the Justice Minister and the Lord Advocate. These recommendations have also been accepted. A summary of the thematic reports is contained in Annex B.
Currently, the Inspectorate is conducting a thematic report on liaison in death cases with next of kin with particular reference to organ retention. This followed on from a recommendation in the report by the Independent Review Group on Retention of Organs at Post-Mortem. This report is scheduled for delivery later in 2006.
7. LORD ADVOCATE'S ADVISORY GROUP
As part of the public consultation exercise on setting up the Inspectorate (during 2003) it was proposed that there should be an Advisory Group to guide the work of the Inspectorate and assist with the work programme thus enhancing independence. The group was to include independent external members to bring an independent perspective to the work of the Inspectorate and provide a focus for benchmarking performance. The functions of the group would be to provide advice on the programme of the Inspectorate and keep the working relationship between the Inspectorate and COPFS under review.
Several of those who responded expressed positive support for the proposal to create the group; some queried whether members of the group from COPFS would be able to influence the deliberations of the group. In his response the Lord Advocate stated he wished to emphasise that it was his intention to appoint members from a diverse background to add an external perspective and to have shareholder representation.
Accordingly, the Group was established during 2006 and currently consists of the Solicitor to the Scottish Executive (who acts as chair), the Crown Agent and Chief Executive of COPFS, the Deputy Chief Executive of COPFS, the Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, the Equal Opportunities Commissioner for Scotland and, at the time of writing, two external positions are being advertised to try to achieve as wide a group as possible.
The next meeting of the Group in Autumn 2006 will address the future work programme.
8. FUTURE WORK PROGRAMME
The role of inspection generally has been under review in recent years and currently the view is that the inspection process should focus upon:
- Risk assessment based inspection targeted on identified problems and key challenges for the organisation, areas for improvement and potential good practice.
- Harnessing business excellence/self-assessment activity to inspection to help identify where inspection might usefully focus and to promote effective use of performance based improvement processes.
- Thematic studies including Criminal Justice System wide joint inspection activity to promote whole-systems effectiveness across the Criminal Justice System.
It is intended that the Inspectorate should operate in a dynamic way focusing on specific areas of performance and making recommendations, which seek to make improvements in service delivery.
Recent IT improvements have resulted in improved management information in COPFS, which can be utilised by the Inspectorate in identifying areas to be examined.
Internal management has the primary responsibility for performance and rigorous self-assessment has an important role to play in effective performance management. Recent changes to the management structure of COPFS have provided a framework within which such rigorous self-assessment can take place.
The work of the Inspectorate has to reflect and complement these developments and concentrate on areas where its expertise will be of greatest value.
From its commencement, the work programme of the Inspectorate has followed the Jandoo recommendations. This will cease by the end of 2006 and a new programme will be produced in Autumn 2006 for 2007.
In line with this current philosophy on inspection certain common principles on inspection are followed. In particular a risk-based approach is adopted and the 10 Principles of Inspection, promulgated by the then Office of Public Services Reform, followed. A detailed Handbook dealing with the approach to inspection and methodology, etc. has been prepared and will be available on the website.
Wherever possible, joint work with Criminal Justice partners is undertaken to get a system wide consumer perspective. The recent Joint Thematics with Victim Support Scotland and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary are examples of this.
Use is made of Reference Groups of experts and interested parties and extensive consultation with users and appropriate groups undertaken. Efforts are made to take a "consumer's perspective" and considerable use is made of questionnaires and meetings with groups and relevant organisations to get as wide an input as possible.
In the office inspection programme a risk-based approach is undertaken in examining relevant cases targeting areas which might be of concern. All reports are submitted to the Lord Advocate and published.
It is intended to build on these principles during 2006 and beyond and continue to establish the inspectorate as a useful agency for driving up performance and confidence in the Criminal Justice System.
Joseph T O'Donnell