Chapter 7 – Results
158. A major part of Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service aims and objectives is to listen to communities and understand their needs and priorities. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Strategic Plan 2009/12 stated its intention 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.'
159. This can be done by obtaining information through engagements, surveys, feedback systems, etc.
160. To evaluate success there needs to be a system to analyse results eg ranking priorities, identifying patterns in complaints/concerns, assessing success of involvement, etc.
161. The Scottish Government National Standards for Community Engagement describes specific indicators relating to the standards. These refer to having a method where ' progress is evaluated against intended results' and ' providing feedback to participants and the wider community'.
162. One method of obtaining feedback from communities and the wider public is through Customer Feedback Policy (as described in Chapter 3). This was re-launched on 1 November 2010 and at that time the method of measuring/evaluating feedback was still in its infancy and further work was necessary to make formal assessments of feedback received.
163. Another method of obtaining feedback is through multi agency working groups and surveys, examples are as follows:
- Lothian & Borders - Easter Road anti-social behaviour group - involves representation from approx 150 members of the public
- Highlands and Islands - involvement in Northern Constabulary's biannual community consultation exercise - where results are categorised and prioritised and action is taken to address results 44
- Scottish Crime and Justice Survey - which includes analyses of awareness of the role and work of the Procurator Fiscal 45
164. Although all Fiscal Areas do already engage with partners (as described in Chapter 6) it would be a worthwhile undertaking to look into involvement in exercises with partners such as local and national government surveys and consultation exercises.
That all Fiscal Areas in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service consider liaising with partners such as Police, local Councils and Government to identify whether there is an opportunity to be included in community/public surveys or consultations.
Success and Outcomes
165. A measure of success can be shown through awards received. These can be internal to the organisation or external. Chapter 5 provides detail of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service internal award scheme. Examples of external awards received are as follows:
- A member of staff in Highlands and Islands is to receive an award in January 2011 from Highland Council relating to 'A Celebration of Business Support for Schools' - this related to the support to schools through work placements
- Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service awarded a Prince Michael International Road Safety Award for the Drink Drive Vehicle Forfeiture Initiative in 2010
- Highlands and Islands won the Judges Award, a Scottish Government Excellence Award, for their outreach work in 2006
166. Work carried out where results and outcomes have been recorded include:
- Reports on study visits to places of interest and local groups, for example, visit to Red Road Family Centre in Glasgow to meet with asylum seeker and refugee community - emerging issues were recorded, staff completed a questionnaire on how they benefited from the visit and follow up work was agreed
- Area Diversity Reports 46 - a section of the report asks for details of 'What has happened (or will happen) as a result of this action?' but not all Fiscal Areas complete this section. If they were to complete this section management would be able to see at a glance what the effects are and whether involvement was beneficial or not. Where it has been completed there have been actions set such as further workshops, involvement in co-ordinated actions with partnership agencies to a particular group of people, improved links with communities, etc
- Equality Action Plan Annual Reports - these summarise the main activities and evidence of progress during the period. Objective 1 relates specifically to community engagement.
- Area Diversity Weeks - after an event in one Fiscal Area feedback comments were recorded from attendees relating to whether their awareness of the organisation was raised, whether there were any issues they would like to know more about, whether they were content to be involved in future events
167. It is good practice to record outcomes and assess impact/benefits. The findings of our review show that not all outcomes of engagement are recorded therefore we consider it will be difficult in these circumstances for management to measure success and identify lessons to be learned. As stated earlier in Chapter 3 there are toolkits 47 available to assist with management and evaluation of engagement and also to help assess engagement activity against strategic objectives.
That where engagement has taken place outcomes should always be recorded either using an in house approach or through a package such as VOiCE to allow management to measure success against strategic objectives and identify lessons to be learned.
168. A method of providing feedback to communities and the wider public is through media, for example, press coverage, interviews on local radio, etc. Examples of this have already been given in Chapter 3 'Use of Media' although we felt that this medium could be used more and application of it could be better monitored.
169. We also believe that introducing social media such as Twitter would assist in providing feedback to participants. This is also discussed in Chapter 3.
170. Feedback can also be given back to communities at future meetings.
Results of Our Focus Groups
171. We carried out four focus groups during March 2011 48. We invited a mix of community members including representatives from community safety partnerships, community planning forums, equality councils, youth, elderly, faith, race, disability and gender groups. In addition due to the wide geographical dispersion of Highlands and Islands we wrote to a further 24 community groups from which we received six replies.
172. Our aim was to obtain feedback on how well the Procurator Fiscal responds to local needs and concerns and whether their involvement is considered sufficient and to identify whether it was felt improvements should be made.
173. Overall we received very positive and some extremely complimentary feedback on engagement activities in all three Fiscal Areas with comments such as:
- 'our relationship is exemplar'
- the approach was 'refreshing and forward looking'
- the one to one contact was a 'positive experience'
- the Procurator Fiscal always 'listens to issues'
- he maintains a 'human approach'
- involvement is 'very positive'
- 'very happy with the quality of work and input'
174. There was also positive feedback from those involved in arranging work placements and we were advised that people like the opportunity for local Fiscals to get involved in local issues.
175. We were advised that staff are responsive to requests to attend meetings (when pressure of business allows this) and are willing to meet community groups to explain the role of the Procurator Fiscal.
176. We did, however, receive some negative feedback from some groups where there was 'little' or 'no contact'. Therefore attempts could be made to engage more with these groups (eg representatives from women, gender, and people with learning disabilities). We make reference to liaison with gender groups in Chapter 3 where it has been recognised through monitoring that there is little contact.
177. Also as part of our focus groups we asked whether improvements in engagement could be made. Some suggestions are listed below:
- Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service should do awareness raising of its role
- Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service should explain its role and part in the criminal justice process
- A list of which organisation to contact at certain points in the criminal justice process
- Better information provision - make use of technology, community papers, etc
- Be mindful of different needs of different communities and cultures and how best to get information across eg the young use facebook, however some cultures prefer to learn by ear rather than through technology therefore presentations, talks
- Be more visible in communities
- Procurator Fiscal could be more proactive in providing information about cases eg why charges were dropped
- Mock courts for all groups and adults not just children
- Improvement in the language used (eg jargon, terminology)
- Issue leaflets on what has been achieved, possibly using Council's community magazines
- Increased training on different needs of victims, cultures, etc
- Job shadowing for agency staff to gain a better understanding of Procurator Fiscal work
- Liaise proactively with voluntary sector and agencies for advice and help on decision making
- Replicate Area Diversity Weeks elsewhere in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
- Share achievements in Community Engagement Planners with community safety partnerships, etc
178. As described in this report Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service already have procedures in place that address some of the suggestions above (eg training, information on website, etc), however, there is always scope for improvement. Some suggestions reflect what we recommend in the report (eg making use of technology) while others such as mock trial courts for adults/groups and providing better information on how the organisation fits into the whole criminal justice process 49 will help promote the work of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Certainly feedback provided to us from schools shows that mock courts are successful and worthwhile. It allows for a better understanding of the processes involved in the criminal justice system.
That Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service consider the suggestions for improvement made by community members as referred to in this report at page 44.
Feedback from staff
179. We liaised with several members of staff in relation to this review. All advised that community engagement provides definite benefits. They indicated that it allows for a greater understanding of communities needs and thus enables better targeting of certain areas of work to deal with real concerns and it also increases awareness of the work of the organisation. There are concerns, however, relating to the resources available in the current economic climate and that contact may become less frequent.
180. It is clear that steps are taken to capture feedback from communities. However, we consider more could be done in the way of formal recording and measurement of outcomes of engagement and identification of lessons to be learned.
181. Introducing further procedures to extend on the good work that is already done will help management evaluate overall effectiveness, lead to better assessment of success and ultimately improvement.