Chapter 1 Background and Methodology
1. The Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland was launched in December 2003 with the task of inspecting the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. It carries out this function by a series of office inspections and thematic reports either singly or in conjunction with criminal justice service partners. All reports are published on our website to be found at owww.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/ipis/Intr .
2. The Inspectorate was established following the Jandoo Report into the liaison arrangements between the Police, the Procurator Fiscal Service and Crown Office with the family of the deceased Surjit Singh Chhokar. Recommendation 8 of the Jandoo Report was that "The Crown Office Inspectorate should conduct a thematic inspection of the Service's response on victim and witness issues (including the operation of Victim Information and Advice (then called the Victim Liaison Office)". Since the Jandoo Report the Scottish Parliament has passed the Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2004 and it will take some time for all the provisions of that Act to become operational.
3. Pending these developments taking effect it was decided that it would be useful in implementation of Recommendation 8 of the Jandoo Report for the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland to look at and evaluate the liaison arrangements between Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Witness Service regarding the provision of advice and assistance given to witnesses cited for the High Court and Sheriff Court (Chapters 1 - 4).
4. Additionally the opportunity would be taken to look at and evaluate the arrangements made by Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (including the Victim Information and Advice Division) to implement the provisions of the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2004 (following the review by Lord Bonomy) and the Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2004 (Chapter 5).
5. The Witness Service agreed to undertake this joint project with the Inspectorate of Prosecution and produce a report to be submitted to the Lord Advocate. Scottish Court Service agreed to participate in the preparation of the report so far as it affected their interest and responsibilities. The report therefore attempts a thematic cross cutting look at the issues in question particularly taking a consumer's perspective.
6. The Witness Service is a branch of Victim Support Scotland itself a recognised charity. It was initiated in Scotland in 1996 following 3 pilots. Its main objective is to provide a range of court based support services to witnesses to deal with the experience of attending criminal trials in Scottish courts. More information is contained in Chapter 2 and available on its website at www.victimsupportsco.demon.co.uk .
7. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is a Department of the Scottish Executive. It is the sole prosecuting authority in Scotland and also investigates sudden deaths and complaints against the police of a criminal nature. The area of Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service work that is most well known by the public is the investigation and prosecution of crime.
8. Victim Information and Advice is part of Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and has three main functions:-
1) To provide information to certain victims, witnesses and bereaved next of kin about the criminal justice process.
2) To keep victims, witnesses and bereaved next of kin informed about the progress of cases.
3) Advise on and facilitate referral to other agencies for specialist support and counselling as required.
9. Victim Information and Advice was subject to an internal Crown Office review during 2005 and the results of that internal review were accepted by the Lord Advocate and work has commenced on implementing the recommendations.
10. More information is contained in Chapter 2 and on the website at www.crownoffice.gov.uk .
11. Scottish Court Service is an Executive Agency which is responsible for the speedy, efficient and cost effective administration of the Supreme and Sheriff Courts in Scotland. It is responsible for the administrative staff who deal with the day-to-day work of the courts and associated offices. Further information can be found at the website at www.scotcourts.gov.uk .
12. The Scottish Executive (the devolved government for Scotland) is committed to securing a criminal justice system that fully supports victims and witnesses. A Scottish Strategy for Victims was published in January 2001 and a dedicated Victims and Witnesses Unit has been created within the Justice Department. A wide range of information on child and other vulnerable witnesses is published on its website at www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/criminal/18245/12291 .
Issues for Report
13. A number of issues were identified including
- The provision of information, advice and support to witnesses prior to attendance at court.
- The provision of information, advice and support to witnesses at court.
- The joint operational working required of Victim Information and Advice and the Witness Service prior to and on court dates.
- The proposed arrangements by Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service regarding delivery of the new statutory procedures to vulnerable witnesses.
- In all cases diversity issues would be considered including race, disability etc.
14. The review was carried out using a number of techniques.
- Preparation and planning
- On site visits (namely Procurator Fiscal Offices and Witness Service offices)
- Review of case papers
- Analysis of information
- Report writing
- Review of relevant Departmental policies
- Review of relevant Departmental internal protocols
- Review of relevant Departmental protocols with other criminal justice partners
- Interviews with representatives of criminal justice partners
- Interviews with Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service staff
- Use was also made of the considerable volume of information obtained in the preparation of the Inspectorate's first report on race issues including interviews with witnesses (published March 2005)
- On site visits to courts
- Contact with specialist agencies
15. We were concerned with gathering information in relation to the following issues:
- Knowledge of the functions of the Witness Service
- How the Victim Information and Advice (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service)/Witness Service Protocol operates in practice
- Arrangements in addition to the Protocol
- Whether all Victim Information and Advice category cases are in fact referred to Victim Information and Advice
- The exchange of information before the case comes to court
- The exchange of information on court days
- The exchange of information while the court is sitting
- Pre-court familiarisation
- Accommodation for the Witness Service
- Representation of the Witness Service on the Court Users' Group
- Suggestions for improvement
16. Questionnaires were issued to all organisations involved - the Witness Service, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Victim Information and Advice and Scottish Court Service. Questionnaires were distributed and returned electronically (via e-mail).
17. Questionnaires were sent to 13 members of staff in the Witness Service; 12 were returned. To minimise the data provision burden on the service the 13 staff were chosen by virtue of geographical location (one from each of the main areas 1 across Scotland) to ensure coverage across Scotland.
Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
18. Questionnaires were sent to all District Fiscals, of whom there are currently 31 spread across the country; the Glasgow office has a slightly different structure due to its size and hence has an Area Fiscal and 4 Divisional Procurator Fiscals, one for each Glasgow Division. Hence, for our purposes, each Divisional Procurator Fiscal was equivalent to a District Fiscal. 36 questionnaires were returned (the District Fiscal in Dundee made 2 returns separately in respect of the Sheriff and High Court in that area).
Victim Information and Advice
19. Questionnaires were sent to 16 Victim Information and Advice staff; 14 were returned. The 16 members of staff were also chosen by virtue of geographical location (based on Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service business area) in addition to their experience of dealing with the Witness Service.
Scottish Court Service
20. Questionnaires were sent to Scottish Court Service staff in all Sheriff and High Courts; 50 questionnaires were issued and 39 returned. It should be noted that although there were 11 questionnaires not returned from Scottish Court Service staff, returns were received from all areas in Scotland (based on Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service business areas).
21. As far as possible and where relevant, the same questions were asked of each organisation (from each organisation's perspective), to maximise comparability across questionnaires for analysis, in addition to questions asked which were specific to each organisation.
22. As the Inspectorate of Prosecution is currently conducting an audit of Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service offices on a 3-year cycle the opportunity was taken during these regular inspections to look at the issues raised in this report.
23. A Reference Group was established to take the work forward and we would like to record our thanks to all involved for the giving of their time and expertise. The names of the Group members are in Annex 1. The conclusions, recommendations etc remain, however, those of the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland and the Witness Service.
24. Additionally we would like to thank the various agencies who gave of their time, knowledge and experience.
Joseph T O'Donnell