25 February 2015
For immediate release
The union representing Scotland's Prosecutors today described a report from the Inspectorate of Prosecution as a "wake-up call for the Scottish Government".
The Thematic Report on the Management of Time Limits found that staff had a "strong track record" of getting cases prepared for Scotland's solemn courts, but due to cases becoming more complex there is an "increased risk that cases may be lost" as well as the department being "impacted by budget cuts"
Approximately 5,300 serious cases are prosecuted in Scotland each year. However, whilst the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has a strong track record of compliance with statutory time limits, the combination of an increasing volume of serious cases, the changing profile of serious offending and the greater complexity of such cases - all in the context of reducing budgets - has impacted on its ability to progress High Court cases expeditiously. This increases the risk that cases may be lost if time limits are not managed effectively.
These issues were raised by the FDA at the Scottish Parliament in November last year, when the union highlighted a reduction of £1.1m in the staffing budget. Despite this, Ministers pressed ahead with these cuts.
Fiona Eadie, FDA Vice President and Secretary of the union's Procurator Fiscal Society Section, said:
"This report is a wake-up call for Ministers. It clearly states that issues around cuts to the COPFS budget could put at risk the most serious cases. The report highlights the risk that these serious cases could even be lost. The impact on victims and the resulting public confidence in the Service is being put under threat.
"When the FDA brought its concerns to Parliament in November, we hoped that Ministers would listen and realise the impact that cuts to the staffing budget might have. It is worth noting that the concerns contained in this report covers a period before the £1.1m cut is taken from the staffing budget.
"The FDA welcomes the helpful recommendations for procedural changes contained in the report. FDA Procurator Fiscal members are committed professionals who want to uphold the law whilst serving the public, but this can only be achieved with adequate resourcing. The commitment of our members must be matched by the Government. These most serious cases are too important not to warrant an immediate reaction from Ministers. They need to act, and act quickly."
Notes for editors
1. The Inspectorate of Prosecution report's main findings can be read at http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/02/1907/2
2. The FDA is the trade union for the UK's senior public servants and professionals. FDA membership includes more than 18,000 senior civil servants, Government policy advisors, prosecutors, diplomats, tax professionals, economists, solicitors and other professionals working across Government and the NHS.
3. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants' union".
4. The FDA can be found on Twitter @FDA_union and at www.fda.org.uk.
5. The FDA's alternative White Paper - 'Delivering for the Nation: Securing a World-Class Civil Service - outlining our analysis of the challenges facing the civil service and our recommendations for change, can be read here.
6. For further information contact:
- Fiona Eadie, FDA Vice President and Secretary of the union's Procurator Fiscal Society Section, tel: 07940 731032.
- Kay Hender, Communications Manager, tel: 020 7401 5589 or 07980 700747.