I am pleased to present my first annual report as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland (IPS). I would like to extend my gratitude to my predecessor, Joe O'Donnell, who expertly steered the Inspectorate from its inception in 2003 through its transition to a statutory Inspectorate in 2007 and embedded the core strengths of the Inspectorate - independence and a rigorous evidence-based approach.
Since the creation of the Inspectorate in 2003 the criminal justice landscape has undergone a number of transformations. I agree with my predecessor's observation in last year's annual report that one of the most significant developments over the last decade has been the move towards more collaborative and joint working among the various justice organisations.
A recent and visible manifestation of this approach is the Scottish Crime Campus (SCC) at Gartcosh that was formally opened in June 2014. The SCC brings together on one site key enforcement agencies, including the National Crime Agency (NCA), Police Scotland, Forensic Services, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), with the purpose of combining and strengthening collaborative efforts to disrupt serious crime.
The last 12 months witnessed yet another significant change in the criminal justice landscape with the creation of a single police force for Scotland and the subsequent alignment of the police force with the COPFS Federation structure that was implemented in 2012. There will also be an impact on the day-to-day working of the criminal justice system arising from the recent implementation of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014, which introduces a number of reforms designed to support victims and witnesses and the proposals contained within the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, which take forward a range of recommendations originating from Lord Carloway's review of criminal law and practice and Sheriff Principal Bowen's review of Sheriff and Jury procedures.
Within this changing landscape there has been a strategic decision, actively promoted and advocated by the Law Officers, to develop greater specialisation in COPFS. This has resulted in a number of specialist units, including the National Sexual Crimes Unit, the Sudden Fatalities Investigation Unit, the Health and Safety Division and the Wildlife and Environmental Crimes Unit. The creation of four Federations in April 2012 and the move to functional working within the Federation structure introduced a greater degree of specialisation when dealing with core operational work. Within the three geographical Federations, there are 'hubs' that deal solely with a particular work-stream, such as initial decision-making or Sheriff and Jury business.
The work of the Inspectorate this year reflects the trend towards specialisation with the publication of three thematic reports focussing on discrete areas of COPFS work. The first report examined the Knowledge Bank - the COPFS information knowledge database. The second report reviewed the work of the International Co-operation Unit, a specialist unit within Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service that leads in extradition and mutual legal assistance work. The most recent report was concerned with the sensitive issue of organ retention.
A common theme that emerged from the reports was the need for COPFS to undertake a review of procedures and working practices that pre-dated the Federation structure to ensure that they are still valid and effective within the new structure and specialised units and, in particular, to ensure that there is clarity within the Federations on where the responsibility lies for each aspect of an investigation, liaison with victims and witnesses and engagement with criminal justice partners.
Finally, I would like to thank all those organisations we have worked with throughout the year and the IPS staff for their delivery of high quality inspection reports.
HM Chief Inspector