Prosecution watchdog critical of COPFS right to review scheme and complaints handling

The Crown Office’s failure to notify complainers of decisions not to prosecute and its “lack of progress” on developing systems to learn from complaints have been criticised by the prosecution watchdog.

The Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland has today published a report on the operational effectiveness of the COPFS Victims’ Right to Review Scheme and a follow-up report on the COPFS complaints handling process.

Complainers or bereaved relatives have the right to seek a review of a decision by COPFS not to prosecute a criminal case or to discontinue criminal proceedings that have commenced.

Michelle Macleod, HM Chief Inspector said: “Providing reasons for such decisions is essential to retain confidence and to deliver accountability and transparency to those whose lives have been affected.

“We found the COPFS review process was robust with reviews conducted independently and thoroughly and reviewers overturning decisions where they found the initial assessment of sufficiency and/or the public interest to be incorrect or unreasonable.

“However, not all complainers are notified of decisions not to prosecute. This policy has the potential, in some cases, to deny them access to an effective remedy, in the form of a prosecution, if the decision is overturned.”

Commenting on the complaints handling follow-up report, Ms Macleod, added: “We are pleased that COPFS has implemented a substantial number of the recommendations made in our thematic report, resulting in a more user friendly complaints handling process and improvements in the quality of responses.

“However, the lack of progress on implementing systems to identify trends and to learn from complaints to drive improvements and provide a base line to measure service performance is disappointing.

“We look forward to seeing progress made in this area by the newly established Service Improvement Board.”

The report can be accessed here.