Fiscals’ union survey ‘should be wake up call for Ministers’ about ‘serious problems within COPFS’

Monday 24 June 2013
(For immediate release)


Fiscals’ union survey ‘should be wake up call for Ministers’ about ‘serious problems within COPFS’

A new survey of Scotland's prosecutors by their union, the FDA, has revealed deep concerns over lack of preparation time for serious criminal cases.

The survey showed that 81% of legal staff had serious concerns over preparation time, staffing levels and workload.

Almost a quarter of prosecutors (23%) stated that insufficient time to prepare cases was a serious cause of stress, with court prosecutors indicating that being given less than 24 hours’ notice of serious Sheriff and Jury cases is becoming the norm.

One prosecutor said: "After many years I am losing faith in the service and our ability to prosecute in the public interest". Another highlighted their concerns that lack of preparation time could lead to mistakes, which would result in a person guilty of a serious matter being free to reoffend.

A court prosecutor questioned: "How can you expect Deputies to read and prepare four jury trials in an evening?"

FDA Scottish Secretary Jim Caldwell said:

"This survey shows clearly that there are serious problems within COPFS that need to be addressed urgently.

"These highly-trained legal professionals certainly do not lack skill or motivation, but little time for preparation is seriously damaging their ability to prosecute in the public interest. It cannot be acceptable that prosecutors are given less than 24 hours to prepare to take a case to court where the outcome is a possible five-year prison sentence. These cases include crimes of violence and serious sexual offences.

"The administration of justice is vital to public confidence in our legal system. Our members care about this and also care deeply about the victims of crime they see in our courts every day. That is why so many of them feel they had to speak out.

"This should be a wake-up call to management and Ministers alike. If the government dictates that we must reduce in size then they must reduce the workload accordingly or face the consequences for the justice system. "

Notes for editors

1. The FDA is the trade union for the UK's senior public servants and professionals. FDA membership includes more than 19,000 senior civil servants, government policy advisors, prosecutors, diplomats, tax professionals, economists, solicitors and other professionals working across Government and the NHS.

2. 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".

3. The FDA can be found on Twitter @FDA_union and at www.fda.org.uk.

4. For further information contact:

• Jim Caldwell, FDA Scottish Secretary, tel: 020 7401 5564 or 07967 126778.
• Kay Hender, Communications Officer, tel: 020 7401 5589 or 07980 700747.
• Diana Ruthven, Communications Officer, tel: 020 7401 5588 or 07791 040394.