COPFS told to stem tide of sexual crime complainers ‘who disengage’ from justice process

COPFS told to stem tide of sexual crime complainers 'who disengage' from justice process

The Crown Office must address the high numbers of alleged victims ‘who disengage’ from the criminal justice process, according to Scotland’s prosecution watchdog.

The Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland has today published a thematic report on the investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes.

Michelle Macleod, HM Chief Inspector said: “We found many dedicated professionals in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) seeking to achieve the best outcome for each case, challenged by unprecedented numbers of serious sexual crimes, a climate of budgetary restraint and an increasingly complex criminal justice system.

“However, the high number of victims who disengage during the criminal justice process, after taking the significant step to report such crimes, infers that more could be done by the criminal justice system, in which COPFS is arguably the key organisation, to secure their participation throughout the process.”

The inspection identifies several areas where COPFS can improve the quality of service delivered to complainers of sexual crimes:

  • The standard and frequency of communication does not meet the expectations of many complainers. A more proactive approach, tailored to individual vulnerabilities and needs is required. The desired method and timing of communication should be agreed with complainers at the outset.
  • There is an unrealistic expectation by COPFS of complainers and witnesses’ understanding of the prosecution process. The use of legal terminology coupled with a systematic approach to communication is apt to confuse and can contribute to a sense of separation and detachment. Information provided should be readily accessible to those who are unfamiliar with the legal system.
  • Many complainers felt unprepared for the trial process. To assist them to give their best evidence, the inspectorate advocates the introduction of a bespoke court management strategy, designed to ensure the suite of practical measures aimed at providing support is made available in a coordinated package.
  • View the report here

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