To the Right Honourable Elish Angiolini QC
The Lord Advocate
This is my third report as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prosecution in Scotland since the office was established as a statutory one in April 2007 by the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007.
My duty in terms of the legislation is to secure the inspection of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and to submit to you, the Lord Advocate, a report on any particular matter connected with the operation of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service which you refer to me.
As seems to be the norm now the past 12 months have produced cases and issues of considerable importance to the Prosecution Service in Scotland. In particular the impending decision of the Supreme Court in the Cadder case is likely to have far reaching consequences for all parts of the criminal justice system. The results of the UK Government's Spending Review are also likely to impact for many years.
The year 2009-2010 saw the completion of two further thematic reports. One of these, which was a major undertaking in conjunction with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (Scotland), was on the Proceeds of Crime Act which continues to be a topic of considerable media and public interest. A number of recommendations for improvement were made and these are currently being implemented.
A second report was also published (in the series of summary justice reform inspections) on the use of Compensation Offers and combined Fiscal Fine and Compensation Offers (the first report on Fiscal Fines was published in early 2009). As with the previous report on Fiscal Fines this report took a strong evidence based approach to the work as opposed to anecdotal and examined the issue of 510 Compensation Offers or combined offers. It looked at compliance with Crown Office policy and guidance. As with the initial report on Fiscal Fines the overarching conclusion was that the vast majority of Compensation Offers and combined offers had been proportionate and in accordance with the intended aims of the new provisions. Again, however, a number of recommendations for improvement were made.
The fifth of our ongoing series of Area inspection reports was also published during the year on the Lanarkshire Area. As with the four previous reports a considerable emphasis was placed on case review. Quality assurance and accountability lie at the heart of the inspection process and the case review examines how policy had been put into practice across a wide range of different types of cases from the most minor to the most serious. As part of the overall inspection of the Area a considerable input was sought and obtained from criminal justice partners and others including system users. A number of recommendations were made.
In addition to the published work a follow up report on wildlife crime was delivered to Ministers by the Police and Prosecution Inspectorates during the year. This examined progress against the recommendations made in our original report with good progress being made by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service on the parts affecting the Service.
Since it is now five years since the Inspectorate first published reports it seemed an appropriate time to examine progress against recommendations made in previous thematic and Area/Office reports. An annex on this is included in the report. Inspection, in my opinion, is about public accountability, quality assurance (both to you as Lord Advocate and Ministerial Head of the service and the wider public) and improvement. Inspection can act as a catalyst to stimulate improvement. It is gratifying to see that the overwhelming majority of our recommendations have been accepted and acted upon.
The Crerar Review continues to have an impact on inspectorates and inspection methodology. During the course of the year the Public Services Reform Bill was enacted by the Scottish Parliament and is being brought into effect. A major recommendation of the Crerar Review was greater use by organisations of rigorous, transparent self assessment methods. A start was made during the year by the Crown Office in piloting an in-house case analysis in Lanarkshire in tandem with our inspection and results of this are currently being examined and will inform future casework inspection activity.
Self assessment in the Crown Office in the sense promulgated by the Crerar Review is still in the early stages of development and dialogue is ongoing with Crown Office officials particularly the new head of Strategy and Delivery Division to take this forward.
Finally, as ever, a risk based, user focused approach is taken to the selection of topics for inspection and influences the methodology. This is very much in keeping with current inspection thinking and methodology.
Joseph T O'Donnell
HM Chief Inspector