Chapter 6 – Results
328. Results in the context of the criminal justice system can mean different things to different people. For some it is the investigation and prosecution of crime and others simply the prevention of crime or at least its reduction both in terms of frequency and impact.
329. Comparatively more recently, perhaps in the last twenty years, expectations have risen that public services will focus on how their services are delivered in addition to more traditional and simplistic results. This change has its roots in initiatives such as citizens or service charters and then became embedded within legislation supporting Best Value.
330. Police and COPFS have responded to these developments taking a much broader view now of what constitutes their results. There is much more public debate and comment upon their services and this debate is more open, forthright and the comment at times more critical. Both the Police and COPFS invest in consultation with the public and satisfaction has become an increasingly important measure of success - in effect a result.
331. Unequivocally we consider the above developments to have been positive. As we move into a much more difficult period for public services this connectivity with the public takes on even greater significance. The decisions as to how services will be altered to accommodate large reductions in resources must take cognisance of public views. What is fundamental to this process is that the debate must be an informed one.
332. As we previously highlighted in this report, public awareness of the criminal justice system is generally very low. Scotland prides itself on being a small country with all the benefits that this can bring in terms of community and shared values. This same small country though is one in which many people will have either had contact with the criminal justice system or know someone who has. In this way the results of the police and COPFS are communicated far beyond the reach of any website, business plan or annual report.
333. Whilst not wishing to be complacent, this is significant. Since contact with the police and COPFS will often be as a result of something unfortunate happening, the victim's eventual satisfaction must be calibrated in that light.
334. Further, the criminal justice system has a duty towards society as a whole that has to be balanced with that of the individual. This means that the outcome can be the correct one yet still not meet the victim's expectations. In this regard victim satisfaction whilst an important result cannot be the single determinant of success for the police and COPFS.
335. So what are results for the purposes of this report?
336. In this report we have assessed results with regard to the following;
337. We have taken as a baseline the commitment of both the police and COPFS to The Strategy. Flowing from that we have looked at how and to what extent victims have been provided with information provision along with practical and emotional support. Although more complex to assess we have made some judgements about how this might lead to their greater participation in the criminal justice system.
338. We have recognised that overall satisfaction levels are relatively high and have tried to get below the surface of the headline figures to understand better, where and how satisfaction rates can be improved. In exploring these issues we have focussed on a qualitative dialogue with victims and victims groups along with practitioners and managers of both services.
339. Encouragingly there is a powerful consensus.
340. The police know from their own research and surveys that where victims are not satisfied it is very often with the lack of information about what is happening with their incident. In interviews a number of staff confirmed this view. HMICS reported similarly in 2008. (refer to previous footnote)
341. COPFS know from their own research that victims want to know what is happening with their case. The fundamental change in policy in 2005 was in recognition of this and the recent statements in COPFS business plans suggest that this view is still held and that the COPFS is moving towards information provision to all victims. Similar to the Police, our conversations with COPFS staff confirmed this was viewed as a positive outcome.
342. This consensus is useful in that we have then be able to concentrate on how victims perceive current information provision and compare this with how the police and COPFS perceive the same issue.
Police - policies and practice results
343. In the previous section on processes we highlighted that in relation to the police, compliance with policy was not a particularly good measure as policies varied across forces.
344. We noted that although generally police IT systems were not designed to facilitate and record contact with victims, that some forces were able to demonstrate this quite clearly.
345. Finally we noted that some victims appeared not to receive any update at all in relation to their crime which seemed incongruous with forces' policies which are designed to prevent this.
COPFS - policies and practice results
346. In the previous section relating to COPFSprocesses we highlighted the progression of policy and strategy relating to victims and the undoubted improvement in this. We noted this progression is continuing and suggest improved clarity regarding the current position and direction of travel to assist staff who require to interpret, understand and give effect to these policies.
347. Our findings indicated a gap in the service provision to victims between what was stated in policy would be delivered, to that delivered in practice.
348. Similar to the position with the police, the COPFSIT systems were designed principally for the purpose of case progression as it relates to the accused and prosecution. We do comment on the major review and update of COPFSIT systems currently taking place and suggest this is an opportune time to consider systems to increase focus on victim contact which could help eliminate or reduce this gap.
349. As Scottish Women's Aid comment in their submission:
350. "…provision of information also varied widely; some areas reported that this process was good but in others, information provision was poor and that women were having to "chase police and COPFS to find out what's going on."
351. Similarly Stonewall comment in their submission:
352. "Despite good central policy, victims on the ground continue to be dissatisfied with the information they receive regarding no proceedings being taken. We believe it should be made clear to the victim that insufficient evidence to prove an attack does not mean the incident hasn't been taken seriously by the authorities."
353. Grampian Racial Equality Council report in their submission:
354. "Overall GREC's experience and feedback from victims……has been positive with respect to the provision of information from Grampian Police and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. The main issue victims raise remains to be confusion regarding how case is being progressed through the justice system and at times the rationale regarding whether or not the Procurator Fiscal Service proceed to prosecute a case in court etc. Any further improvement that can be made in this area would be appreciated by victims and would increase confidence in the criminal justice system."
355. This supports our findings that although there has been progress in the development of policy and practice towards information provision and support to victims there are some significant gaps. The systems are not sufficiently robust to ensure all victims receive adequate information about their cases. We conclude this is at least partly as a result of the lack of clarity and knowledge of the policies.
Results - victims or witnesses?
356. In this phase of the inspection we have been focusing on cases that do not proceed to court. It has been challenging for stakeholders groups to make this distinction when describing what happens to victims overall and their ensuing satisfaction.
357. We think it is significant that victims' groups and criminal justice agencies find it difficult to identify the group of victims who fall within this phase of our inspection. This pre-disposition to consider victims in terms of a court process rather then in terms of the impact of the originating event, conflates or confuses the needs of the victim with the needs of the criminal justice system. This issue is compounded with a second conflation; the joining of victims' and witnesses' needs within criminal justice portfolios and meeting structures.
358. Victims whose cases do not go to court may be difficult to identify but they are not a small group. We know from the SCJS that just under 40% of crime actually gets reported to the police. We know that of the circa 40% which is reported to the police, less than half is ever reported to COPFS. We know that of this half, around 40% will not go to court.
359. We know therefore that for the vast majority of victims of crime in Scotland, a court appearance and all of the attending focus and support that this brings, does not represent the reality of their experience.
360. Police forces, COPFS and the Scottish Government should ensure that their approaches to dealing with victims pursuant to The Strategy recognise that the majority of victims' cases will not proceed to court and will not receive the focus and support that the status of being a witness attracts.
RESULTS - CONCLUSIONS
361. In this phase we have concentrated on those offences that represent by volume a significant proportion of reported crime and not those such as sexual offences and serious assaults where we recognise that there is enhanced victim provision from both the police and COPFS.
362. We have focused on The Strategy and its emphasis on information provision along with practical and emotional support. In that regard it was important to consider what police and COPFS policies were, whether they were delivered and perhaps more importantly whether they met victims' needs.
363. We have described earlier in this section the extent to which police and COPFS policies were delivered in practice. Where we have encountered victims' dissatisfaction it has generally been in areas that current police and COPFS policies already provided for. In other words at this stage of this inspection we consider that the greatest improvement to victim satisfaction would be to simply ensure that current strategies and policies are clarified and consistently delivered in practice.
364. This should be reassuring to both the police and COPFS. It means that the commitments that they have made, the policies that they developed and are continuing to develop to deliver them are broadly the right ones. It should also be reassuring to the Scottish Government that the 2001 strategy seems to be correctly focused and that issues of delivery rather than re-design are a finding from our inspection.
365. What should not be underestimated however is the difficulty in ensuring practice meets policy across the hundreds of thousands of interactions with victims that take place every year in Scotland.