This is the first report of the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland. The creation of the Inspectorate was the first recommendation of Dr Raj Jandoo in his report to Ministers following the Chhokar murder in 1998.
His second recommendation was that there should be a report by the new Inspectorate on the response by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (the Department) on race issues. This report is in implementation of that recommendation.
Dr Jandoo recommended that the report should not be limited to a paper exercise and should include external sources. To achieve that a number of groups throughout Scotland have been contacted, questionnaires have been issued and face-to-face interviews have taken place with victims, interpreters, specialists and others. A Reference Group was established to guide and assist the preparation of the report and consisted of those with an interest in and experience of the field of review.
The report centres on examining how the Department has reacted to Dr Jandoo's findings but has also looked at race crime itself and employment issues within the Department.
Following the passing of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the creation of specific statutory offences and aggravations a tough policy was imposed on the Department and monitoring arrangements put in place. In addition the Police were given strict guidelines by the Lord Advocate as to the investigation and reporting of racist offences.
We found that the policy was well known in the Department and closely monitored, compliance was very high with few exceptions. Court action was taken in about 85% of cases as opposed to 60% in all cases where alternatives such as fiscal fines are allowed. Compliance by the Police has also been closely monitored and shows an improving picture. The policy was seen to send a clear signal that such offences would not be tolerated. We encountered some opposition from staff, defence agents and sheriffs because of the rigidity of the policy but in contact with victims it was held to be the correct approach.
The policy had uniquely been decided following consultation with the Commission for Racial Equality and we feel it would be premature to relax this approach.
We found the conviction rate in race offences very high at approximately 80% and the number of convictions had increased considerably year on year. We were disappointed and a little surprised to see that offenders came from both genders and across the age groups, these offences not being the exclusive preserve of young male offenders. Less surprisingly we found that offenders had a high proportion of previous offences (71%).
Overall, therefore, we found that the Department was using the statutory provisions and that policy was implemented and closely monitored. Indeed we know of no other policy which is so closely monitored.
Dr Jandoo had found the failure to provide interpreters and translation to be a major failing in the Chhokar case.
Very detailed guidance has been given by the Department on the use of interpreters and the Department has tried to push up standards by insisting where possible on interpreters having the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting and recent experience of both consecutive and simultaneous interpreting in court. A protocol for instructing interpreters was created.
The Department is not the sole player in using interpreters in the Criminal Justice System. The Police and Court Service (for accused persons) also do so and we found that the various partners were adopting a common approach in the form of the Working Group on Interpreters and Translation. We see this as the way forward in trying to push up standards and obtain consistency.
We contacted a considerable number of interpreters either face-to-face or in the form of a questionnaire. Experience was mixed, some felt that all court personnel including judges, prosecution and defence agents could benefit from training in how to use interpreters. The provision of adequate breaks was another problem as was the question of how interpreters are treated. We make several recommendations but without a doubt matters have improved considerably within the Department on the provision of interpreters for those for whom English is not their first language.
Equally on translation since 2000 the Department has been translating court and other documents into a number of languages. These include standard leaflets on topics such as "Being a Witness", complaints against the police, career information and others.
In addition all race cases are referred to the Victim Information and Advice initiative which provides information to victims, bereaved and next of kin.
In general the changes we found have gone a long way to meet the shortcomings in the Chhokar case.
The Department has tried to attract employees from the minority ethnic communities in Scotland. The 2001 Census shows the minority ethnic population of Scotland at 2% and recent figures show that approximately 2% of staff come from a minority ethnic background. The Department has therefore managed to mirror the national figures.
The percentages vary from area to area but we found they were roughly consistent with local minority ethnic population figures.
A number of initiatives and devices have been used to attract people including attendance at schools, career fairs, secondments to and from Racial Equality Councils and others. We found that law as a career was not a popular choice for minority ethnic students but the Department had recent success in attracting trainees from a minority ethnic background.
The 2000 Race Relations (Amendment) Act imposed various staff monitoring duties on public bodies and in a survey the Commission for Racial Equality found this was one area where compliance could be better. We found this true of the Department also but there were definite plans to publish (as required) the results of the monitoring, the information was available but needed to be collated, published and importantly analysed.
On the training front for all staff a 2-day diversity awareness programme had been designed and rolled out. This included considerable external input and close monitoring has taken place. The feedback is very good and the Department has attempted a subsequent impact assessment. A wealth of diversity material has been provided for staff on the Departmental intranet.
The Department has been successful in hitting Scottish Executive targets for minority ethnic staff and has provided a comprehensive awareness-raising programme for all staff. This has been a major investment for the Department.
The Department's aim is to provide an independent modern prosecution service, pursuing cases fairly and consistently in the publicinterest and being responsive to publicneeds.
Dr Jandoo had found that the Department had for too long been perceived as a faceless organisation, arrogant, secretive and accountable to no one.
The Department in the immediate aftermath of the Chhokar case created the Race (now Diversity) Strategy Group chaired by the Solicitor General. Its function is to develop the Departmental strategy for race issues and to oversee the Strategic Plan.
This central policy body uniquely chaired by a Minister sends a strong signal to both staff and public alike of the commitment of the Department to delivery.
To obtain feedback from the public it seeks to serve a number of initiatives have been developed including the creation of the Equality Advisory Group whose remit includes providing independent advice on the impact of existing and future policies on equality issues. It provides a forum for feedback.
An internal Race Team was also created to develop and support the implementation of the Race Equality Action Plan (REAP) and give advice to the local Area Diversity Resource Teams. These local teams are a major plank for local implementation of policy and their duties include the monitoring of prosecution policy on racist crime, recruitment and other issues. These represent an effort on the ground by the Department to interact with the local population. The Race Team created an impact assessment tool for local managers and the Commission for Racial Equality has recently provided a website for such advice.
The various devices adopted by the Department are seen as a major investment in contacting and getting feedback from the minority ethnic communities in Scotland. Their existence has been favourably commented on and seen in some quarters as a model for others although the Department itself is reticent about others adopting their approach.
Race Equality Scheme
In the aftermath of the report by Dr Jandoo the Department created a Jandoo Action Plan which followed acceptance by the Lord Advocate of all his recommendations (40 in all).
This plan detailed the relevant 'Jandoo' recommendation and outlined what the Department would do and by when. This provided an immediate template against which progress could be measured and enabled the then recently formed Race Strategy Group with a means to measure and monitor progress. The key milestones of the plan have been achieved including the guidance to the police and the diversity awareness programme. This approach we found to be thorough and aims substantially achieved.
The 2000 Race Relations (Amendment) Act required public authorities to prepare and publish a Race Equality Scheme by 30 November 2002 setting out how they intended to meet their obligations to promote race equality. The Scottish Executive published an overarching Race Equality Scheme and the Department published a detailed Race Equality Action Plan (REAP) which to a large extent took over from the Jandoo Plan.
The REAP is closely monitored by the Race Strategy Group and has received favourable comment on its attention to detail and thoroughness. It has recently been reviewed. All major objectives were found to have been achieved and a number of new objectives identified for Year 4.
We found that the approach to strategy was very thorough and close monitoring was taking place. There was a clear willingness to learn from experience and adapt.
Overall we felt that the Department had in the 6 years since the Chhokar case moved very positively in a number of areas and on a number of fronts.
The signs are very encouraging and there is strong evidence of commitment to the task with a clear lead from the top both at Ministerial and Management level.
We put in a final warning against complacency but found no evidence of such. Although we have various recommendations and suggestions they relate to detail, no gap in policy/practice of any substance was found and the Department was in the van of new initiatives and partnership working.
Joseph T O'Donnell