Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Concerns over Crown Office

[What follows is a brief excerpt from an article by Chris Marshall headlined Prosecution service has its own case to answer that appears in today’s edition of The Scotsman:]

In a series of written submissions to the justice committee, bar associations have warned that fiscal deputes are being forced to proceed to trial in cases involving domestic abuse or hate crime because of national policy rather than their own professional judgment.

Bar associations representing lawyers in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen all raised the issue with MSPs, describing it as a “serious concern”.

In its submission, Edinburgh Bar Association said: “The leeching away of the discretion of the procurator fiscal depute in court to take decisions on the prosecution is the greatest enemy to efficiency and effective management by COPFS”.

Then came a further warning last week from an anonymous fiscal depute citing “grave concerns...of cases proceeding to trial without there being sufficient evidence”.

The prosecutor warned of an “ever-increasing gap between management and frontline staff” and said serious and complex cases were being indicted for trial without “any prospect” of sufficient evidence.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe currently has plenty on his plate, not least spearheading the Scottish Government’s Article 50 case at the Supreme Court. There is also the soon-to-be concluded police investigation into criminal allegations against the Crown and others over its handling of the prosecution of the man later convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

But there is also now plenty to suggest there is much to concern the Lord Advocate within the prosecution service itself.

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