Chapter 2 – Policy and Strategy
26. In this chapter we examine the policies and strategies relating to community engagement, whether they are clearly communicated and in later chapters in this report the extent to which it has been implemented.
27. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Strategic Plan 2009/12 stated:
- 'We are committed to understanding the public that we serve'
- 'We will listen to the people of Scotland and respond to their needs'
- 'We will continue to work with other criminal justice agencies to make communities safer, help them thrive, and improve people's lives'
- 'We will adopt an outcome focussed approach when dealing with cases, asking always which course of action is in the best interests of victims, witnesses and communities ……… which give back to the community and can reduce re-offending'
- 'We aim to give communities a prosecution service that they can have confidence in. We will listen so that we can better understand the diverse nature and needs of the communities we serve; and we will demonstrate publicly what we are doing to deliver local justice and what communities can expect from us'
28. It further stated that each Procurator Fiscal will know their community and be known in their community through:
- 'Playing a key part of Local Criminal Justice Boards, Criminal Justice Authorities, and Community Planning Partnerships in finding local solutions for the improvement of the justice system'
- 'Meeting local communities to explain our work and listen directly to their concerns about offending'
- 'Responding to the problem of persistent offending'
- 'Working with community councils and local voluntary groups'
- 'Working with schools, including offering job shadowing to school staff'
- 'Better informing the public through the local media'
29. The Business Plan 2010/11 details the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service's five key objectives and their supporting 10 priorities. The key objective relating to engagement with the community:
- ' To work with police, local communities and others to solve problems caused by localised offending, targeting persistent offenders and helping people live their lives free from crime, disorder and danger'
30. The priority relating to this is:
- ' Engage further with local communities, and to work with and influence local partners, in order to increase understanding of the role of the public prosecutor and to improve public perception of Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service'
31. The strategic and business plans are the strategies to which all members of staff should work towards and they are available on the intranet which all staff can access. The 2010 staff survey showed that 91% of responses from staff indicated that they have a clear understanding of Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service's purpose and 86% have an understanding of Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service's objectives.
32. These plans are also available to the public on the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service website.
33. The Crown Agent in the foreword to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Strategic Plan 2009/12 stated specifically referring to engaging the community that a strategy is being developed to:
- 'engage proactively with the local community, in order to listen to the needs of individuals and communities, and receive feedback about the quality of our work from those directly affected by it.'9
34. This strategy (also known as the Community Engagement Planner) was set up in 2009 by the Portfolio Owner in consultation with Area Procurators Fiscal. All Fiscal Areas therefore work to the same strategy. It details four specific objectives:
- 'To maintain/obtain the trust and confidence of the people in Scotland'
- 'To allow communities to advise Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as to their local concerns and priorities to allow Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to be responsive to communities needs'
- 'To educate others in order to promote citizenship, prevent disaffection, minimise harm or minimise offending behaviour'
- 'To assist in recruitment and ensure that our staff are representative of the communities we serve'
35. Equality impact assessments should be carried out on all new and reviewed policies and plans. Their purpose is to help when policies and practices are developed in ensuring that there is no discrimination and that, wherever possible, equality is promoted and diversity celebrated. The requirement to carry out this assessment did not come into force until after the Community Engagement Strategy was put in place therefore an assessment has not been done.
36. The Community Engagement Planner is available on the shared drive of the computer system and can be accessed by staff to insert details of work undertaken in relation to the four objectives. It is linked to a media planner 10 with the purpose being that management can see at a glance what work has been done and if there is any media coverage connected to it both of which will help increase awareness of the services provided. The Portfolio Owner is responsible for monitoring the planners (see Chapter 3).
37. In addition the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Equality Action Plan which was assessed and amended on advice from the Equality Advisory Group 11 sets out five equality objectives the first of which is to ensure that:
- ' Scotland's diverse communities are engaged, involved and participating in the development of our policies and good practice'
38. In connection to this objective there are specific actions relating to community engagement:
- ' collating details of all local and national initiatives intended to engage diverse communities'
- ' giving overarching responsibility for the consideration and progression of community engagement to a senior member of staff as a recognised role with specific responsibilities to undertake and targets to achieve'
- 'Developing and distributing a template for evaluating community engagement'
39. As described previously the actions have been met with the exception of written detail of the specific responsibilities of the COPFS lead on Community Engagement.
40. Achievement towards the Equality Action Plan is monitored by the Crown Office Policy Division's Diversity Team and reviewed by the Area Fiscals Group 12, Equality and Diversity Strategy Group and the Equality and Diversity Strategic Working Group.
41. Furthermore the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service introduced an 'Accessible Information Policy' in March 2010 with the purpose of ensuring that:
- 'Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service information, documents and publications are accessible to all people in Scotland and to set out transparent and consistent criteria for making decisions on the languages and other formats to be made available'
42. The policy intends to benefit:
- People whose first language is not English
- People who are Deaf and use British Sign Language ( BSL) as their first language
- People who have a hearing impairment
- People who have a speech impairment
- People who have difficulty reading because they have either a visual impairment, a learning disability, are a BSL user or a low level of literacy
43. These steps should increase public access to Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service by adopting approved accessible standards. The standards should be applied to all Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service templates, IT systems; documents; training and publications. The accessibility policy is fairly new to the organisation and only limited monitoring has taken place in this regard.
44. At our focus groups we found little evidence of local community involvement and influence in the creation of policy and strategy within the Fiscal Areas we reviewed. Policy tends to be set centrally therefore there is little scope for the separate Fiscal Areas to engage in this respect. It is more likely that feedback is given after policy is put into practice through connections with local groups such as Hate Crime Action Groups etc.
45. It is our opinion that Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service make it clear to staff and the public through policy and plans where the organisation stands in relation to engaging with the community. These show an intention to consider the needs and priorities of individuals and communities that will help ensure delivery of a customer focussed service.
46. The involvement of the Equality Advisory Group is key in ensuring the fairness and inclusiveness in policy, strategy and practice although feedback received indicated that this group would prefer to be more integrated into the process of making policy and strategy as opposed to being reviewers of end products.
47. The extent to whether these policies and strategies are implemented is discussed in the following chapters.