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19/07/19 13:20

Investigation and prosecution of Sheriff Solemn cases

Review published following reforms to sheriff and jury procedure.

*Issued on behalf of the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland*

The Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland has published a report on the investigation and prosecution of Sheriff Solemn Cases.

The inspection reviewed the effectiveness of Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service investigation and prosecution of Sheriff Solemn business following reforms to sheriff and jury procedure implemented in 2017.

The report makes seven recommendations designed to improve the effectiveness of various procedures and processes regarding capturing information on witness availability and to provide a consistency of approach to supporting victims and taking their evidence in Sheriff and Jury cases in the High Court.

Michelle Macleod, HM Chief Inspector, said:

“We are pleased to report that following the reforms there has been an increase in earlier resolution of cases and reduced churn of sheriff and jury business. 

“The work done by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, as well as the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, prior to the reforms being implemented has undoubtedly contributed to the successful transition. The focus on earlier engagement with the defence, greater judicial management and only continuing cases to trial when they are fully prepared has reduced inconvenience to witnesses and delays in the process.”

Background

The report can be accessed online at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/thematic-review-investigation-prosecution-sheriff-solemn-cases/

As part of a wider agenda to modernise and deliver justice systems and structures fit for the 21st Century, the Scottish Government commissioned Sheriff Principal Bowen to undertake an independent review in April 2009 to examine “the arrangements for sheriff and jury business, including the procedures and practices of the Sheriff Court and the rules of criminal procedure as they apply to solemn business in the Sheriff Court; and to make recommendations for the more efficient and cost-effective operation of sheriff and jury business in promoting the interests of justice and reducing inconvenience and stress to the victims and witnesses involved in cases”.

The report made recommendations designed to tackle procedural and systematic inefficiencies and to change the culture contributing to delays including:

  • Indicting cases to a first diet only and only allocating trial diets once the court is satisfied that the case is fully prepared
  • Placing a duty on the prosecution and defence to communicate within 14 days of the service of the indictment
  • SCTS assumed responsibility for scheduling solemn cases
  • Time limits were altered to bring them in line with High Court procedure.

The legislative provisions reforming sheriff and jury procedure were phased in between 29 May and 31 July 2017.