103. While there is no doubt that the importance of meeting time limits is understood at all levels within COPFS, there is a gap in the knowledge of some staff about the consequences of failing to adhere to certain time limits and a lack of clarity on aspects of the law relating to time limits.
104. Time limits are covered as part of the induction process for all new Advocate Deputes. However, with the exception of some basic information on time limits delivered at the Case Preparers course, designed for all involved in preparing Sheriff and Jury cases for prosecution, time limits are not covered in any detail in any training delivered to COPFS staff at the COPFS Prosecution College.
105. Furthermore, while there is some guidance in the Knowledge Bank on the legal obligations relating to time limits, it is piecemeal, contained in a number of different guidance manuals, including Case Marking Instructions, the Book of Regulations and Crown Office Circulars. There is no single guidance source or aide memoire explaining the law and relevant authorities.
106. Given the fundamental importance of understanding time limits and the relevant law, such training should be mandatory for all members of staff involved in the preparation and investigation of solemn cases. It should cover the law, consequences and complexities of time limits with particular emphasis on the importance of data integrity, the recording of dates that are likely to impact or affect time limits in each case, how cases should be conjoined, the recording of extensions to the time limit and an awareness of the various reports that should be monitored. For legal staff, there should be an additional emphasis on legal arguments for extending time limits, in particular what does and does not constitute a legitimate ground for seeking an extension, appealing decisions on time limits and their role in monitoring the accuracy of time limits.
107. Such training should be supplemented by comprehensive guidance on the Knowledge Bank.
|COPFS should introduce mandatory training on all aspects of time limits for all legal and administrative staff involved in the investigation, preparation and management of solemn cases.