In yet another excellent article from the ScottishLegal website, a current serving Procurator Fiscal at the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service has broken ranks and given evidence to the Holyrood Justice Committee about how Crown office bosses are corruptly ignoring and hiding injustices in their system, have been failing members of the public, and misleading the Scottish Parliament. It makes for mind-blowing reading:
Anonymous fiscal cites ‘grave concerns’ over routine lack of evidence, implying whitewash by FDA and management
A serving procurator fiscal depute has made an anonymous submission to the Justice Committee’s inquiry into COPFS stating they have “grave concerns that the issue of cases proceeding to trial without there being sufficient evidence was not fully explored or properly addressed” and warning that “There is an ever increasing gap between management and front-line staff”; that the employees’ union, the FDA, has only represented the management’s position to the committee and that neither the FDA nor management have ever acknowledged there is a problem about the poor quality of cases.
The fiscal told the Holyrood committee that, as a result of failures, the sheriff and jury unit to which they are assigned sees “serious and often complex cases” indicted for trial
(1) without all the essential evidence on the indictment,
(2) without being read by a legally qualified member of staff,
(3) without there ever being any prospect of sufficient evidence, resulting in a huge waste of time and resources and unnecessary distress and inconvenience for witnesses.
As a consequence, a significant number of cases are proceeding to trial “with insufficient evidence to prove the case or the cases are poorly prepared”.
The submission adds that trial deputes are left between a rock and a hard place, either incurring the wrath of management or that of the public: “The trial depute, as an officer of the court, is then in a very stressful dilemma. He or she either has to be unprofessional and face criticism in the public forum of the court for presenting a poorly prepared case, or risk censure from management should he or she refuse to ‘run’ the case.”
The fiscal adds: “In the vast majority of cases the law and the evidence are clear and unequivocal if they are properly and timeously considered and analysed. The notion that there is a difference between a sufficiency of evidence and a reasonable prospect of conviction is not known to me or my frontline colleagues.”
They conclude: “I fully appreciate COPFS, like every other public sector, is working under increasing budgetary and resource pressures. But both the management and the FDA have to at least acknowledgment the problem of cases proceeding to trial with insufficient evidence in order to address it.
They continually fail to do so.
“Like the police, the COPFS is not a homogenous organisation. There is an ever increasing gap between management and front-line staff.
Unfortunately, the FDA very much represented the management view to the Justice Committee on 15 November 2016.”