This is the second joint inspection by the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland ( IPS) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland ( HMICS) into how victims  are treated within the criminal justice system in Scotland. The first joint report, covering cases where no court proceedings were commenced, was published in October 2010 .
In 2001 the Scottish Government document 'The Scottish Strategy for Victims'  hereinafter called the Strategy was launched. It was developed in response to developments throughout Scotland, Europe and internationally, including the United Nations declaration of basic principles of justice for victims of crime and abuse of power. The Strategy was strengthened by the development of National Standards for Victims of Crime  which was launched by the then Scottish Executive in 2005.
The three main objectives of the Strategy are:-
- To ensure information provision to victims (both in respect of the criminal justice system generally but also concerning the case in which they are involved).
- To ensure provision of emotional and practical support to victims.
- To achieve greater participation by victims in the criminal justice system.
The Scottish Police Service and Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS) have both committed to the Strategy which, as with our first report, provided the baseline for our inspection.
This phase of our inspection deals with cases in which court proceedings were commenced at a summary level either in the Sheriff Court or Justice of the Peace Court.
The writing of the report is 'timeline' based from the initial reporting of a crime to the police through to prosecution and post trial handling. We examined two types of crime namely assaults and thefts including housebreaking. Three police forces and their associated Procurator Fiscal Areas were examined during the fieldwork phase. These were Lothian and Borders (City of Edinburgh), Dumfries and Galloway and Fife.
Scottish Police Service
Overall victims reported positively on their experience of reporting a crime to the police, and those forces examined had clear processes in place for dealing with the initial contact with victims of crime. However only one of the three forces explicitly included a victim's vulnerability or risk as a factor in determining how urgently the police responded to the call.
Consequently in Recommendation 1 we call for Chief Constables to ensure that police forces call grading and attendance policies explicitly identify victims' vulnerability and risk as factors to be considered when determining the appropriate call grading and initial response.
We found that all three police forces determined victims' needs by a combination of information available via technology used in their contact centres and the experience and skills of the call handlers. We found good practice in Lothian and Borders Police where there was an integration of police databases which enhanced the quality of information passed to officers attending calls.
Our own research supported the findings in the Scottish Policing Performance Framework  regarding victims' satisfaction levels with the initial police response which was generally good. We found that officers were aware of repeat victimisation but that only one force had a published policy on addressing repeat victimisation. We noted developments in this area throughout the UK and in Recommendation 2 call on Chief Constables to ensure that police forces develop and implement repeat victimisation strategies in order to provide a robust and appropriate response to the needs of repeat victims of crime.
In 2008 HMICS published a report on the quality of service and feedback to users of the police service and identified that police forces were poor in keeping victims updated of the progress of the investigation.
Our evidence suggests there has been mixed results in terms of improvement in this area, reinforced by the 2009-10 Scottish Policing Performance Framework where satisfaction levels across police forces ranged from 57% to 92%. What is clear is that users were less satisfied with how the police provided feedback when compared to the initial contact they had with officers. Our own survey of victims underlined this with satisfaction levels falling from 98% at initial contact to 76% for feedback on progress of the investigation.
All three of the forces inspected had different approaches to communicating with victims with only one publishing a timescale by which a victim would be updated. We noted work undertaken within Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary which had developed a broad strategy tackling public reassurance and feedback to victims resulting in satisfaction levels rising from 58% to 73%. The basis of the approach was published service standards supported by clear leadership and a performance management process. As a result in Recommendation 3, in an effort to improve satisfaction levels amongst victims, we recommend that Chief Constables set, publish and deliver clear service standards for feedback to victims of crime.
We also examined the use by police of the Appropriate Adult Schemes  which exist throughout Scotland to facilitate communication between the police and people who suffer from mental disorder and the police. As well as examining force policies we carried out a survey of all call-outs for Appropriate Adult Schemes in Scotland during February and March 2011. Whilst the results were inconclusive in terms of the nature of the crimes where police use Appropriate Adults it did show that one third of call outs were for victims and that there was an appreciation of the service offered by Appropriate Adults by police officers.
The inspection examined processes within the three forces to manage contact with victims and noted new developments within Fife Constabulary where a Victim Contact Plan was agreed between the reporting officer and the victim reporting the crime. We found that victims often proactively contact the police seeking an update and that processes in the forces inspected were inconsistent in how these enquiries were dealt with and recorded. In Suggestion 1 we suggest that Chief Constables ensure that police forces introduce policies that will ensure that all contacts between victims and the police are recorded.
Building on this we recognise the important role of information technology in ensuring that service standards are delivered. On this basis we recommend in Recommendation 4 that Chief Constables work with the Scottish Police Services Authority to ensure that any new national crime recording system being developed should support delivering a service to victims including recording of victim updates.
In reporting a case to COPFS we noted that in the Standard Police Report ( SPR) there is very little reference to or consideration specifically of victims, the report being essentially offender focused. We highlighted in our first report that the victims' agenda had been subsumed by the wider witness agenda. We felt that given the critical and unique role of victims in the criminal justice system and their focus through the Scottish Strategy for Victims that they should be clearly identified as being a victim in the SPR. This would help deliver a service to victims later in the criminal justice process. This is detailed in Recommendation 5.
We explored how victim participation in the criminal justice process could be enhanced by including information on the victim's views on the impact a crime had on them including financial loss. We noted the approach in England and Wales which has been in existence for some time and that COPFS staff welcomed victim impact when it was provided. However we found that there was no clear agreement between police forces and COPFS ensuring police officers routinely provide this information.
Recognising the wider principles of the Scottish Strategy for Victims to enhance victim participation, in Recommendation 6 we recommend that police forces and the COPFS introduce procedures that will ensure that victim impact information is captured and reported for cases at summary level in order that the perception of a victim can be considered at different stages of the criminal justice process.
We found evidence of strong leadership both at Ministerial level from the present (and former) Lord Advocate. This was also true at official level and training in victim issues has grown since our first report.
We recommended in our first report that consolidation should take place in relation to COPFS' commitments to victims (and witnesses) of crime and we found this has happened by the production of two public facing documents in leaflet and booklet form backed up for staff by a handbook. We did find some overlap and possible confusion in the information available on the COPFS website and so recommend in Recommendation 7 that COPFS consolidates the material available on the website and removes older material.
During the inspection we examined to what category of victims COPFS provides information. We found that the current policy means that only those victims who are referred to the COPFS Victim and Information Service ( VIA) would receive ongoing information about the progress of their case. Whilst there was evidence of satisfaction with the service provided by VIA the number of summary cases referred to them outwith categories such as domestic abuse was found to be very small.
All other victims were required to seek information themselves by contacting the COPFS. We observed that victims would be unaware of this "opt in" system and significantly that this approach fell some way short of the commitments within the Scottish Strategy for Victims.
We examined the information that is provided to victims cited to attend trials as witnesses ie the 'Being a Witness' booklet. We noted that the information provided was good and in Suggestion 2, ask that to facilitate contact the phone number for the COPFS Enquiry Point be added to the booklet.
Building on this we explored the impact of information provision on a victim should a case be adjourned and witnesses countermanded. We found the countermand notice did not explain fully what this meant for the witness. In Recommendation 8 we ask that a sentence be added advising witnesses that they will (or not) be required to attend in the future.
Our telephone survey of victims together with consultation with bodies such as Victim Support Scotland found that a significant number of respondents stated that they were not satisfied with how well they were kept informed of the case by COPFS.
We found some examples of good practice such as within Dumfries and Galloway Area Procurator Fiscal Office where COPFS literature was prominently displayed and talks were delivered on the issue to community organisations. However we remain of a view that current COPFS policy on information provision is unclear. Therefore in Recommendation 9 we recommend that COPFS ensures that it proactively provides all victims with the information they need when they need it.
We examine in some detail the type of cases currently covered by VIA and the addition of a new "other cases" category of referral introduced since our first report. Whilst we welcome the addition of this category and the potential widening of the coverage by VIA we noted that the COPFSIT system had not been adapted to include the category thus undermining its effectiveness. We ask that this be addressed in Suggestion 3 thus improving the monitoring of referrals.
On the question of identifying and reporting on a victim's vulnerability we explored the roles and responsibilities of both the police and COPFS and examined training provided to police officers at The Scottish Police College which we found to be extensive for probationary constables but requiring some improvement for first and second line managers. We noted guidance issued to COPFS staff on their roles and responsibilities in this area and the development of bespoke training for staff.
During fieldwork it emerged that the police were good at identifying and reporting on obvious vulnerability categories such as disability but that the identification of more hidden vulnerability such as mental health problems was more challenging. COPFS staff stated that the lack of information on vulnerability could have a negative impact on any resultant criminal justice process and that it was key to identifying whether special measures would be needed in court. We recognise the importance of identifying victim vulnerability but understand that it is challenging for both the police and COPFS.
Given the importance of vulnerability to the criminal justice process we ask in Suggestion 4 that Chief Constables and COPFS should continue to promote policies which are aimed at supporting vulnerable victims of crime and should monitor their use and effectiveness.
We also examined the subsequent role played by COPFS in dealing with victim vulnerability. We found good support for the work of VIA including evidence of a positive working relationship with Victim Support Scotland Witness Units within courts. We again found that the reporting of vulnerability from the police to COPFS was generally good but lacking where the type of vulnerability was less clear. However overall we found that where vulnerability information is provided the service delivered was well received.
Turning to victims' experience where they are required to attend at court, the availability of a range of disposals together with the potential for pleas at stages before a trial means that only a very small number of victims actually have the opportunity to give evidence in summary cases.
This was reflected by the fact that we had difficulty in obtaining sufficient data on victim participation at this stage during our audit and telephone survey. We explored the continuing problem of trials being adjourned or 'churned' and noted initiatives being led by the Scottish Government and involving the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland ( ACPOS) and COPFS to improve witness attendance at court.
We noted that COPFS currently have no statistics relating to witness court attendance and question, in the absence of such figures, the ability to monitor performance in this important area. Consequently in Recommendation 10 we ask that COPFS should consider ways to improve the COPFSIT system to allow for analysis of victim/witness attendance at court.
We also looked at how victims were treated after court proceedings whether there had been a trial or not. This included the service provided to victims when claiming expenses incurred for attending court. COPFS has made a clear commitment to inform victims and witnesses how to claim their expenses and to deal with claims quickly. We explored this during our telephone survey and found a high level of customer satisfaction.
We also examined the extent to which COPFS informs victims of the outcome of cases, building on the principle expressed in our first report and endorsed by Victim Support Scotland, that victims should receive proactive information on the various critical stages of the progress of a case including final outcome. Our telephone survey of victims found that many were dissatisfied with not being told the final outcome of their case by COPFS. In light of this in Recommendation 11 we recommend that COPFS inform victims of the outcome of their cases.
Finally we examined procedures around the return of property belonging to victims/witnesses which had been taken as part of the case (known as productions). Whilst our survey found that there was little concern expressed by victims we were made aware of issues between COPFS and police forces relating to returning property. Whilst COPFS policy is clear we found a significant variation in practice which has a negative impact on both police forces and property owners. Consequently in Recommendation 12 we ask police forces and COPFS to develop and implement an agreement between them which details clear procedures that will ensure the efficient return of property to victims and owners after the conclusion of a case.
We recognised that an issue which arose consistently throughout the inspection, and was strongly evidenced both in consultation with external organisations and in the telephone survey of victims, was the provision of information to victims on the progress of their case. We note that the Scottish Strategy for Victims places the onus on agencies to proactively provide victims with updates and that both the police and COPFS have made a commitment to comply with this.
We noted evidence that whilst the police forces we examined do have a policy of updating victims on the progress of an investigation, satisfaction levels for this remain lower when compared to satisfaction with initial contact. The current policy of COPFS on how it provides information to victims falls some way short of the requirements of the strategy to which it has committed and was reflected in the responses from victims consulted during our survey.
We conclude by identifying that the consistent issue which emerged from the inspection was the need to update victims through all stages of the criminal justice process. Consequently the principal finding of the report is that police forces and COPFS should set and deliver clear service standards for the proactive updating of victims as to the progress of their case, including the outcome of the case.