ANNEX A: LANARKSHIRE AREA INSPECTION
The Lanarkshire Area inspection was the fifth of our inspections of the 11 Procurator Fiscal Areas.
As with previous inspection reports the subject matter was comprehensive including a detailed examination of individual cases, management issues, relations with criminal justice partners, equality and diversity and securing public confidence.
The report was published in May 2010. The Lanarkshire Area is the third largest area in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in terms of the volume of reports received. It forms part of the South Strathclyde Dumfries and Galloway Sheriffdom and covers Sheriff Courts in Airdrie, Hamilton and Lanark. There are also now, following court unification, Justice of the Peace Courts at Coatbridge, Cumbernauld, Hamilton, Lanark and Motherwell.
As part of the inspection 134 individual cases were reviewed of which 115 were summary, 11 were Sheriff and Jury and 8 were High Court cases.
A slightly different approach was taken to reporting on this examination with comments listed under general headings such as court preparation and progress, disclosure, Victim Information and Advice etc rather than a blow by blow account of all the cases looked at.
As a result of the examination of these cases 6 recommendations and 7 suggestions were made. However we considered that overall, decision making across the whole range of crimes was sound and expeditious. High Court cases were particularly well prepared and prosecuted reflecting the resources placed by the Procurator Fiscal Service at the top end of dealing with criminality.
The question of "churn" was raised by various parties in relation to Lanarkshire. While this is not exclusively the province of the prosecution it was recommended that the Lanarkshire Area carry out a review in relation to preparation time with a view to addressing such churn as may be attributable to the Crown and to set up a monitoring system to deal with this.
In the "high risk" areas of race cases and domestic abuse cases legal decision making was also sound but some policies were not followed. Victim Information and Advice generally had good compliance with initial contact with victims about decision making and case progress although we did highlight some concerns regarding the accuracy of information supplied, ongoing contact and some other issues.
Sheriff and Jury cases raised some particular issues we felt should be addressed and generally our findings were in line with the findings of Sheriff Principal Bowen's Review of Sheriff and Jury Procedure referred to elsewhere in this report.
An evidence based approach to inspection is taken and we are grateful to the Witness Service for facilitating witness surveys at court (as with previous inspections). Fifty witnesses responded to our request for information while they were at court and generally the replies were positive about an experience which was never going to be welcome.
Feedback from criminal justice partners and stakeholders was generally good including Women's Aid and Rape Crisis with high hopes expressed for the benefits arising as a result of the Sexual Offences Review.
Following the publication of our report the recommendations were considered by the Crown Office and accepted. The Area Fiscal has been tasked with putting together an Action Plan for implementation of our suggestions and recommendations and it is intended to review these as soon as possible.