Annual Report of Inspectorate's Activity
1 STAFF AND ACCOMMODATION
The staff of the Inspectorate currently consists of the Chief Inspector, a Principal Legal Inspector, a Legal Inspector, a Management Inspector and a Personal Assistant. Three of these are currently part-time posts.
During the course of the year the Principal Inspector left the Inspectorate and was replaced by a secondee from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Continued use is made of ad hoc legal inspectors who have extensive experience and are used to carrying out legal research and compliance audits, particularly in relation to the thematic work. This as before adds considerable flexibility to the staffing arrangements and is a valuable cost effective additional resource.
The Inspectorate continues to occupy premises at Legal House, Gorbals Street, Glasgow. The location puts the Inspectorate within easy travelling distance of over half the Procurator Fiscal Offices in Scotland.
2 LORD ADVOCATE'S ADVISORY GROUP
The Lord Advocate's Advisory Group was established in 2006 and consists of a number of ex officio members, invited members and two lay members recruited by public advertisement.
Its primary function is to provide advice on the work programme of the Inspectorate and to keep under review the working relationship between the Inspectorate and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
The Group meets every 4 months.
During the course of the year the previous Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales resigned from his post and an invitation was sent to his successor. Having the head of a "foreign" criminal prosecution service which is itself subject to an inspection regime is a useful addition to the Group.
The Group as a whole provides invaluable advice on the work programme and is very much in keeping with the spirit of some of the provisions of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill particularly in the proposed sections concerning "user focus" referred to later in this report.
3 INSPECTION REFORM AND PUBLIC SERVICES REFORM (SCOTLAND) BILL
This Bill (published May 2009) has considerable potential implications for the Inspectorate.
The Bill followed in the wake of the publication of the Crerar Review (September 2007) whose remit was to evaluate the current systems of regulation, audit and inspection (ie external scrutiny) and complaints handling and to make recommendations on a framework for the future external scrutiny of public services.
In its response to the report The Scottish Government announced in January 2008 that it would work with the Parliament and stakeholders to make improvements. Further responses were made by The Scottish Government culminating in May 2009 in the response to the five action groups which had been established to take forward the report's recommendations. The Government indicated it was committed to reducing the number of scrutiny bodies and its response had a number of specific proposals with an overall aim of delivering a package of structural reform by 2011.
One issue identified from the response was the need for more active involvement of the public in scrutiny and particularly system "users". The need for independence in scrutiny was also recognised, both independence from those providing the services and from political interference. Scottish Ministers welcomed the reports of the five action groups and set out a response to each recommendation.
The publication of the Bill in May 2009 contains the proposed legislative changes in implementation of some of these recommendations with the overarching purpose of simplifying and improving the landscape of Scottish public bodies to deliver more effective, co-ordinated government.
Of immediate relevance to the Inspectorate are the provisions in Part 2 allowing Scottish Ministers by order to restructure the discharge of public functions by bodies (listed in Schedule 3) by transferring functions, abolishing functions, modifying functions and conferring new functions. The power may also be exercised to amend the constitution of or abolish the bodies listed in the schedule.
Part 6 of the Bill imposes a duty on listed scrutiny authorities to secure continuous improvement in user focus in the exercise of their scrutiny functions and to demonstrate improvements.
"User focus" is defined as the involvement of users of scrutinised services in the design and delivery of scrutiny functions in relation to those services and the governance of the listed scrutiny authorities. Users are widely defined including possible future users and includes the person providing the service.
Regard is to be had to any guidance in relation to the duty provided by Scottish Ministers which in the event of a clash is to take precedence over any other arrangements.
There is also a duty on scrutiny bodies to co-operate and co-ordinate activity.
None of these issues are particularly new, the 10 "principles of inspection" widely used by inspection bodies include taking a user perspective and the encouragement of self assessment which was another strong theme of the Crerar Review.
From its inception in 2003 the Inspectorate of Prosecution has taken an evidence-based approach to the work and consulted widely with service users.
In our first Thematic Report on the Crown Office's Response on Race Issues extensive consultation was undertaken with the assistance of the Commission for Racial Equality and Racial Equality Councils and others. Non-English speaking witnesses were interviewed at court and questionnaires were widely used to obtain feedback from interpreters.
In the Deaths Thematic considerable contact and input was received from the next of kin of persons whose deaths were reported to the Procurator Fiscal and in Area inspection reports extensive use is made of feedback from witnesses in attendance at court and other users and partners.
These proposals would not, therefore, involve any fundamental change in approach but keep the focus of inspection on how the service is perceived to be delivering by those who use it as well as examination of case files for outcomes. One potential challenge for criminal justice inspectorates will be how to consult and get input from accused persons who of course fall within the definition of "service users".
Currently considerable joint work is done with other criminal justice partners especially Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (Scotland) and three joint reports have been completed. Further joint work is planned in 2009 and 2010.
Our English Inspectorate colleagues have already developed joint planning of inspection and sharing of data.
The progress of the Bill will be watched with considerable interest.
4 EQUALITIES BILL
The UK Government recently published its Equality Bill following an extensive consultation period.
The Bill has potential impact on the Inspectorate in a number of ways.
Firstly, it will apply to the Inspectorate as much as any other public body.
Secondly, there were initial suggestions that Inspectorates should have an enforcement/policing role. The UK Government's consultation exercise showed that a number of inspectorates had established good working links with the former equality commissions.
Nearly 200 responses were received on the role of inspectorates during the consultation period and the majority felt that they should be involved in "assessing compliance" with the public sector duties. In the criminal justice sphere the consensus was that inspection for equality was part of the general duty to ensure equality issues were properly integrated in inspection frameworks with a possible specific focus on equality issues from time to time in thematic reports.
It was generally considered as inappropriate to rely on inspectorates for wide ranging and comprehensive monitoring of compliance and enforcement. The Scottish Government made clear its belief that audit and inspection bodies had a crucial role to play in pushing forward the equality agenda.
The current position is that the UK Government believes that inspectorates have an important role to play in looking at how bodies are performing on equality and the equality duty and examining how public bodies engage with key stakeholders, using evidence so gathered in policy making. They will not have a direct policing role. Enforcement of the general equality duty will be by judicial review or through the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Enforcement of any specific duties will be through the Equality and Human Rights Commission only.
The Inspectorate of Prosecution was created in the wake of concerns about race issues and the prosecution service. As a result in the early work of the Inspectorate, including a general thematic on race issues, considerable contact was made with and assistance received from the then Commission for Racial Equality and Racial Equality Councils.
Although the focus now is wider than simply race issues, inspecting for race and other equality issues is built into both Area and Thematic Reports where appropriate and this approach seems to be the one currently favoured in the context of the Equalities Bill.
In addition the Chief Inspector continues to be a member of the Crown Office Equality Advisory Group, the joint Crown Office and Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland ( ACPOS) Group on equality issues and the Working Group on Interpreting and Translation ( WGIT). Again membership of these groups assists with monitoring of previous recommendations in Thematic Reports.
5 COMPLETED WORK
This report covers the period of one year to the end of May 2009.
During this period two further comprehensive Area inspection reports were completed, namely those of Ayrshire and Highlands and Islands. These are dealt with in more detail in Annex B.
In addition thematic work continued with the publication of a thematic report on the use of Fiscal Fines.
As reported in last year's Annual Report the enhanced use of Procurator Fiscal Fines had been the subject of much media focus and this inspection gave an independent view on the operation of the new system based on an extensive examination of cases across the whole country.
As in previous years, efforts are made to do joint work in conjunction with criminal justice partners which in the past have included Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Commission for Racial Equality, Victim Support Scotland and the Witness Service.
A joint thematic report in conjunction with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (Scotland) will shortly be published on the arrangements employed by police forces and the Procurator Fiscal Service for implementation of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in Scotland.
The Serious Organised Crime Taskforce consisting of the Justice Minister, the Lord Advocate and various other criminal justice partners published in June 2009 a strategy for tackling serious organised crime in Scotland and the completed joint report of the two inspectorates will hopefully assist in the development of strategy and practice in relation to the use of the 2002 Act.
The Chief Inspector made a personal contribution to Lord Cullen's Review of Fatal Accident Inquiry Legislation (published in June 2009) the consultation paper had contained reference to our Thematic Report on Deaths. In addition it is expected that assistance will be given to Sheriff Principal Bowen's Review of Sheriff and Jury Procedures.
6 FUTURE WORK PROGRAMME
The future work programme (and the current work programme) has been influenced by the Crerar Review, thematic reports either singly or jointly with other bodies will continue to be a feature of future work.
The Crerar Review emphasised the importance of self assessment for organisations as a tool for improvement and as previously stated recommended that inspectorates assist in the development of these with the bodies inspected to produce robust self assessment regimes. Self assessment is an important part of improvement but not the only part and other factors have to be taken into account. These have to be honest and rigorous to be worthwhile. Following the publication of the Crerar Review there came the collapse of the banking sector and criticism of banking regulators and also in other areas such as social work.
Nevertheless, work has been continuing to develop robust self assessment methodologies in conjunction with Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service personnel. Two members of the staff of the Inspectorate became qualified assessors and received qualifications from Quality Scotland. As a result, methodology in Area inspection is being developed with Crown Office personnel to include self assessment activity in the examination of individual cases. This will be assessed at the end of this particular inspection with a view to rolling out similar models of inspection for the remaining six Procurator Fiscal Areas.
In addition to the Area inspection work a thematic report on the use of Compensation Offers and Combined Compensation and Fiscal Fines Offers under Summary Justice Reform is currently being undertaken and is likely to be published in October 2009. Again, as with the thematic on Fiscal Fines, the inspection will focus on actual casework comparing policy with practice.
Further work towards the end of 2009 and into 2010 is likely with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary on Sexual Offences with particular reference to the recently passed Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill (with its statutory definition of rape) and a review of implementation of the major Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service review of the handling of sexual offences generally.
7 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
Following the placing of the Inspectorate on a statutory basis by the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007 the general coverage of Freedom of Information issues by the Scottish Government's Publication Scheme was replaced by the Inspectorate's own scheme. Details of this were placed on the Inspectorate's website. The scheme was approved by the Commissioner's Office in January 2009.
Although a number of requests for information and advice are received throughout the year only one Freedom of Information Act request was received and dealt with within the statutory time limits.
During the year the Chief Inspector accepted an invitation to sit on the Scottish Public Information Forum which holds its meetings in public and invites comments from members of the public.
The Inspectorate's budget for 2008-2009 was £350,000.
Expenditure was as follows:
|Admin expenses (Note 1)||£74,187.50|
Note 1 - This contains some salary costs for seconded staff.