1. This inspection report examines the provision of services by the Police and Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS) to victims of crimes at summary level, measured against the three principal objectives of The Scottish Strategy for Victims:
- Information Provision
- Practical and emotional support
- Greater participation
2. The crimes selected in this report are those which were reported to the police and following subsequent investigation led to a person being reported to COPFS using the Standard Police Report ( SPR). After due consideration of the circumstances of the case, COPFS determined that formal proceedings at summary level (before a Sheriff sitting alone or Justice of the Peace) should be commenced.
3. The cases considered involved a broad spectrum of outcomes including cases which led to full trial proceedings as well as those which were resolved before that stage eg by way of a plea at an earlier calling of the case in court.
Objective 1 - Information provision
4. The Scottish Strategy for Victims (The Strategy) includes a commitment to offer victims information about both the criminal justice system generally and specifically the crime committed against them.
5. The first Victims of Crime Inspection Report by HMICS and IPS, published in October 2010, identified that both the police and COPFS needed to improve how they provided information to victims of crime. The report specifically identified a principle that victims should be informed each time a significant decision is made concerning their case by either the police or COPFS eg detection of crime, or decision to take proceedings.
6. The nature of the crimes selected for this report, where formal proceedings were raised at summary level, allows greater opportunity for communication between the police and COPFS than in those crimes selected for the Phase 1 report where no proceedings were raised.
7. This report builds on the findings of the Phase 1 report and explores in more detail the extent and quality of communication between the police, COPFS and victims of crime. The crimes examined in this report (Assault and Housebreaking/Theft of Property) may not be considered to be at the extreme end of criminal activity but the nature of the crimes can cause considerable anxiety and concern for the victims.
8. This report does not examine the provision of wider information about the criminal justice system as this was considered in the first report. Instead this report examines in some detail the standard and quality of information provided to victims of crime by both the police and COPFS. Specifically the report examines:-
- The information provided to victims when a crime is initially reported to the police.
- The communication to victims by the police during the investigation phase of a crime including when a crime is detected and being reported to the COPFS.
- The communication by COPFS with the victim once the case has been received by COPFS and initial consideration given to commence proceedings.
- Communication with the victim by COPFS regarding their role as a witness in any court proceedings.
- The communication by COPFS concerning the final conclusion of the case.
Objective 2 - Practical and emotional support
9. The second principal objective of the Strategy is a commitment to provide for the emotional and practical support needs of victims.
10. This recognises the unique and central role of the victim in the Criminal Justice system. It also recognises the need to provide practical and emotional support to assist the victim to recover and towards prevention of further crime or secondary victimisation.
11. This report reflects the findings of the Phase 1 report in relation to this objective and examines this specifically in relation to crimes at summary level. The report does not explore in detail the referral process to support agencies such as Victim Support as this was considered in the Phase 1 report. However it does explore some aspects unique to this phase. These include:-
- The initial identification of vulnerability of victims of crime by the police.
- Identification of repeat victimisation by the police as an indication of a victim's vulnerability when recording a crime.
- The use of The Appropriate Adult Scheme by police for interviewing vulnerable victims of crime.
- Action by COPFS in relation to the use of vulnerability information including the Victim Information and Advice service.
Objective 3 - Greater participation
12. The final objective of the Strategy is to encourage greater participation by victims in the criminal justice system. This aims to improve participation by ensuring that victims have a voice and that the criminal justice system is responsive to their needs.
13. We have again built on the findings from the Phase 1 report and have sought to examine victim participation largely around their role in the criminal justice system and specifically as a witness in court proceedings. Victim participation has not been defined by the Strategy and we recognise that the issue of improving participation is wide ranging and includes aspects of the criminal justice system such as restorative justice. However the focus of this report is to ensure that the victim's voice is heard through existing processes and structures such as the police report to COPFS and how to improve the victim's role as a witness in subsequent court proceedings.
14. Chapters 1 to 5 of this report have been written in the structure of a timeline exploring the initial reporting of the crime to the police, the subsequent investigation and reporting process to COPFS followed by the initial action by COPFS on receipt of a report through to support at trial and thereafter the conclusion of a case.
15. Within this structure we explore all of the above issues but we also consider issues around the processes between police and COPFS in relation to the return of property to victims which has been seized by the police for court proceedings as well as exploring the issue of repeat citing and countermanding of witnesses in cases.
16. We are grateful for the time and attention that staff across all agencies afforded this inspection.
17. We are particularly grateful to those victims who gave their time and shared their experiences of the criminal justice system. The information they provided gave us an invaluable insight into the victim experience and an integrity of evidence which would otherwise have been impossible.