Following a five month inquiry into the effectiveness and efficiency of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Holyrood’s Justice Committee is to conclude its investigation by questioning the head of the service.
The Lord Advocate, the Rt Hon James Wolffe QC, will appear in front of the Committee to face questions from MSPs on Tuesday 17 January. During its inquiry the Committee has heard from a wide range of organisations including COPFS employees and unions, victims’ groups, representatives of people in the criminal justice system, lawyers, environmentalists and police.
The Committee is likely to press the Lord Advocate on concerns raised throughout its inquiry. These include the Crown Office’s prosecution policies and working practices, the support offered to victims and witnesses, the resources available to the COPFS, the efficiency of criminal trials, and possible reforms to improve the service.
Justice Committee Convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said:
“The Justice Committee’s inquiry has unearthed some serious concerns about the COPFS. From the amount of time wasted through trials not proceeding on schedule, to the workload of prosecutors and the support offered to the victims and witnesses who appear at court.
“The Justice Committee will publish its conclusions in due course, but it is hope that the Lord Advocate will have listened to, and taken on board, the legitimate concerns raised so far in evidence.
“The dedication and professionalism of those working in in the COPFS front line is not in question. However, it is essential to ensure that the system operating around these conscientious individuals works just as well as they do. It is therefore vitally important that there is an acceptance by COPFS leadership that, given the evidence presented to the committee, there are challenges to confront.”
The Committee expects to publish its final report into COPFS by late winter 2017.
Correspondence, Official Reports and written evidence relating to the COPFS inquiry is available here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/100984.aspx