beta

You're viewing our new website - find out more

Publication - Report

Thematic report on the management of time limits: follow-up

Published: 28 Feb 2017
Part of:
Law and order
ISBN:
9781786528162

Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland's follow-up to their report published in February 2015.

15 page PDF

1.1MB

15 page PDF

1.1MB

Contents
Thematic report on the management of time limits: follow-up
Part 2: Progress Against Recommendations

15 page PDF

1.1MB

Part 2: Progress Against Recommendations

4. The thematic review made 13 recommendations. All were accepted by COPFS. We have rated the COPFS response to the recommendations as follows:

  • Achieved - COPFS has completed what was required.
  • Substantial progress - COPFS has made significant progress in taking forward the recommendation.
  • In progress - COPFS has taken some action to take forward the recommendation.
  • Not progressed - COPFS cannot demonstrate any progress.

5. The table below sets out the recommendations and actions taken by COPFS.

Number

Recommendations

Status

1

COPFS should introduce a formal reporting regime for solemn cases that fail to comply with statutory time limits.

Purpose

We found there was no system to record cases that could not proceed due to the time limit having expired. The recommendation is intended to provide an accurate record of solemn cases that fail to comply with time limits and to enable the cause of any failure to be identified and actions taken to avoid repetition.

Achieved

Action taken

A process for escalating cases that have not met the statutory time limit to the Operational Performance Committee [3] was implemented in February 2016. The Operational Performance Committee will review all such cases to identify any lessons that can be learned and take remedial action to prevent a re‑occurrence.

Any case that cannot be prosecuted due to a failure to comply with the time limit will be recorded on the COPFS IT system with a specific code. This will enable such cases to be easily identified.

COPFS published comprehensive guidance on the rules relating to time bars, including the recording of cases that cannot be prosecuted due to a failure to comply with the time limit, on the COPFS internal intranet in December 2016.

2

COPFS should explore with the Criminal Court Rules Council, [4] the possibility of amending Court rules relating to the service of indictments to enable service by means of electronic transmission to the accused person's legal representative.

Purpose

After the initial court procedures, the "indictment" - document narrating the charges, witnesses and productions for each case - is served on the accused or accused's legal representative. The timing of service of the indictment plays an important role for the time table of subsequent proceedings. We found that indictments are often served very close to the time limit.

This can involve it being couriered to a prison or delivered personally by police officers to the accused or the accused's bail address.

The recommendation is intended to facilitate the introduction of electronic transmission of indictments to legal representatives which would simplify the process and avoid the need for manual delivery.

In Progress

Action taken

COPFS sought an amendment to the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 to enable an Act of Adjournal [5] to provide for something to be done in electronic form or by electronic means. The amendment was introduced in January 2017. [6]

Following the introduction of the amendment, COPFS has commenced discussion with the Criminal Court Rules Council on amending court rules to enable service of indictments by electronic means.

COPFS is currently exploring two options to serve indictments electronically:

  • Using an existing secure website (disclosure website) which solicitors regularly access to download case material. The website provides an indelible electronic audit trail showing when the information was made available for download by the prosecution and when received and downloaded by the defence. The website would require to be developed to enable indictments to be transmitted.
  • Through a new bespoke website where solicitors will be provided with unique access to their cases. Such a website is currently under development.

3

COPFS should implement monthly reconciliation of all High Court cases between the High Court Unit at Crown Office and the Federation High Court Hubs.

Purpose

While the High Court Unit and the Federation [7] High Court hubs did monitor the progress of High Court cases, there was no formal reconciliation process between them. Such a process would act as a check and provide reassurance that both were fully sighted on all High Court cases.

Achieved

Action taken

A process of monthly reconciliation between the High Court Unit and the High Court teams was introduced in June 2016.

Step-by-step guidance on how the process should be implemented, with explanatory flowcharts, was circulated to all COPFS staff.

4

COPFS should issue guidance requiring the review by the Solemn Legal Manager ( SLM) of any solemn case in which additional charges and/or information is received that potentially changes the character of the case and thus the appropriate forum for prosecution and applicable time limits. If there has been an initial instruction by Crown Counsel, [8] such cases should be re-submitted for further consideration.

Purpose

To raise awareness of the different time limits that apply to summary, [9] sheriff and jury [10] and High Court cases and to ensure that there is sufficient time to enable a change of forum [11] where additional information is received that may alter the initial decision.

Achieved

Action taken

COPFS published comprehensive guidance on the rules relating to time bars, including the procedure to be followed on receipt of additional information and/or charges on the COPFS internal intranet in December 2016.

This guidance will be reinforced in a bespoke training course designed to cover all essential aspects of the law and procedures governing time limits. See recommendation 12 below.

5

COPFS should formalise procedures to check the accuracy of the calculation of time limits at the start of the life of a case. The calculation should be checked with the information recorded by the Scottish Court and Tribunal Service ( SCTS) and verified by the SLM. Any subsequent amendment of the time limit should be entered on the COPFS case management system and similarly checked by the SLM.

Purpose

It is critical for the calculation of the time limit that the date that the accused appears in court is recorded accurately. We found that the system of recording this data was not standardised or consistent. The recommendation is intended to address these deficiencies.

Achieved

Action Taken

Step-by-step guidance on how the process should be implemented, with explanatory flowcharts, was circulated to all COPFS staff in June 2016.

This practice will be reinforced in a bespoke training course designed to cover all essential aspects of the law and procedures governing time limits. See recommendation 12 below.

6

COPFS should amend the Sheriff and Jury Case Preparation Living Document to include the following data:

  • The time limit for proceeding in the High Court for any cases considered borderline between Sheriff and Jury and High Court;
  • Where appropriate, the summary time limit for any statutory offences; and
  • Any amended time limits.

Purpose

To provide clarity on the different time limits that may apply if a decision is taken at a later stage to proceed in the High Court or on summary complaint.

Achieved

Action taken

The Sheriff and Jury Case Preparation Living Document [12] ( CPLD) has been amended to include High Court, summary and any amended time limits.

7

COPFS should include a dedicated sheet within the Sheriff and Jury court folder detailing all relevant time limits which is updated following each court hearing.

Purpose

To ensure there is consistent and up to date information easily identifiable at all stages of sheriff and jury cases.

Achieved

Action taken

A dedicated sheet detailing all relevant time limits has been included in the court folder and is updated following each court appearance.

8

COPFS should ensure that in all High Court and Sheriff and Jury cases that have been conjoined or where a sentence has interrupted the time limit, the new time limit for each case is reviewed by the SLM and recorded on the system and on the court files.

Purpose

To raise awareness of the legal requirements and applicable time limits where cases are conjoined and the impact of sentences of imprisonment to custody time limits.

Achieved

Action Taken

COPFS published comprehensive guidance on the rules relating to time bars, including conjoining cases and the impact of a sentence interrupting a time limit, on the COPFS internal intranet in December 2016.

This guidance will be reinforced in the bespoke training course designed to cover all essential aspects of the law and procedures governing time limits. See recommendation 12 below.

9

COPFS should develop a comprehensive training package on the Management Information Book ( MI Book) [13] for delivery to all solemn managers.

Purpose

To provide awareness of the range of Management Information held on the MI Book and to improve confidence of managers in the accuracy and reliability of data held on the MI Book.

In Progress

Action taken

The functionality of the MI Book is currently being upgraded following consultation with solemn managers. This is being progressed as a priority with a target for the upgrade for High Court cases to be concluded within this financial year.

A training package for all managers will follow completion of the upgrade.

10

COPFS should develop a national uniform and comprehensive suite of management information to facilitate the effective management of the progress of solemn cases and time limits. This should include key indicators including those data integrity reports that provide a check of data essential for the accurate recording of time limits. A standard template for the collation of such information should be introduced.

Purpose

The intention of the recommendation is to provide consistency and streamline existing processes through the introduction of a standard time limit monitoring spreadsheet, containing key data.

Achieved

Action taken

Following consultation with solemn managers, a standardised health check of key data has been produced and is circulated to all solemn operational boards on a monthly basis.

It is intended that the upgraded MI Book will populate a standard spreadsheet from various systems and generate reports rather than relying on manual input.

11

COPFS should ensure that the roles and responsibilities of those attending senior management meetings to monitor the progress of solemn cases are clearly defined and that there are contingency arrangements to deal with the absence of key personnel who attend such meetings.

Purpose

To provide clarity on who is responsible for monitoring key data and to ensure there is a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of solemn managers.

Achieved

Action taken

The remit of the High Court and Sheriff and Jury Operational Boards were amended to include a requirement to serve all indictments within statutory time limits and to ensure that there are appropriate business planning arrangements in place to manage time limits.

The Operational Boards include all senior managers with responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of serious offences. The Boards monitor time limits and any areas of risk on a monthly basis and have collective responsibility for ensuring compliance with time limits.

12

COPFS should introduce mandatory training on all aspects of time limits for all legal and administrative staff involved in the investigation, preparation and management of solemn cases.

Purpose

The intention of the recommendation is to address gaps in knowledge identified in the review and to ensure that all those involved in the preparation and investigation of solemn cases have a comprehensive understanding of the law, rules and complexities of managing time limits.

In Progress

Action taken

This will be delivered by a bespoke training course designed to cover all essential aspects of the law and procedures governing time limits.

The training package has been prepared including e-learning [14] and classroom based teaching materials. It is currently being quality assured. It is anticipated that the training will be rolled out to the service in early 2017. [15] In the longer term the intention is to embed the training into the induction and other core training provided to all staff in COPFS.

At the conclusion of the training, all staff will require to demonstrate competency and understanding through completing a detailed knowledge check. The results of the knowledge check will inform the approach to be taken in subsequent face to face training.

13

COPFS should introduce a new milestone to indict all High Court bail cases seven days prior to the expiry of the 10 month time limit.

Purpose

The recommendation is aimed at mitigating the risk of failing to meet time limits by reducing the number of cases indicted close to the time limit.

Achieved

Action taken

COPFS has introduced an additional milestone aimed at ensuring all High Court bail cases are indicted at least seven days prior to the expiry of the 10 month time limit.


Contact

Email: Carolyn Sharp