The prosecutors’ union has warned that its members will not be the only ones to bear the consequences of a budget cut and that there “will inevitably be an impact on the wider justice system and the service provided to the public”.
The budget for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal (COPFS) in the current year is £111 million, down by 3.5 per cent on the previous year.
Writing in response to the Scottish government’s draft budget 2018-19 the FDA added that COPFS chiefs have been “set an unrealistic task” and that as a result there is an “overwhelming sense of significant pressure” on staff.
In its response, the FDA stated: “There was a strength of feeling that our members are bearing workloads which are such that they are increasingly unable to deliver an effective service and fearful of mistakes being made, and that the impact will be on the broader quality of work and a sense of concern that we are letting victims and witnesses down.”
One respondent, a manager, reported feeling “stressed to death”.
Another said: “Employees are being effectively forced to deal with workloads in which it is nearly
impossible to deliver an effective service given the time constraint to properly consider the relevant legal issues.”
Holyrood’s Justice Committee is looking at the COPFS budget as it scrutinises the government’s draft budget.
Convener Margaret Mitchell MSP, said: “The committee has expressed concern and warned that if the COPFS’ workload is not addressed there will be gravely adverse consequences for Scotland’s prosecution system. We do not want there to be a major tragedy or a trial thrown into question before this problem is taken seriously.
“During last year’s budget scrutiny, the Lord Advocate told us he was satisfied the budget was sufficient. However, some of the evidence we have received disputes this, and speaks of a deeply troubling situation.
“It’s now crucial that the changes so badly needed are implemented, and we look forward to questioning the Lord Advocate again next week to fully assess the current situation.”