Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lord Advocate tells Holyrood his own Fiscals are wrong over claims of case backlog & ‘stress’ as £108 million pours into failing Crown Office

Scotland’s Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland refutes Procurator Fiscals claims to msps they were short of staff, money. LORD ADVOCATE Frank Mulholland, head of Scotland’s staggeringly expensive and often criticised Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) which received £108.2 MILLION POUNDS from the Scottish Government to ‘fight crime’ has today been forced to defend his department’s prosecution of criminal cases after evidence was submitted by the Procurators Fiscal Society earlier this week to the Scottish Parliament alleging a huge backlog of cases were building up because of staff cutbacks, work related stress and other failures attributed to, but not in so many words, the budget cuts forced on all public services by the recession.

Earlier this week, a written submission (pdf) from the Procurators Fiscal Society to Holyrood’s Justice Committee, in response to the committee's call for written evidence on the Scottish Government's Draft Budget 2012-13 and Spending Review 2011, alleged the reduction in staff numbers within the COPFS was damaging the justice system.

The Procurators Fiscal Society told MSPs : We believe we can evidence the impact that reducing staff numbers is already having on performance targets by looking at the increasing number of unmarked reported cases.

Looking back only 6 months to April of this year there were approximately 7,000 unmarked cases, and of those only c. 1,300 of them were over 4 weeks old.

As at 16 October 2011 there were nearly 14,000 unmarked cases. This is 52% higher than the same point in 2010/2011 and 100% higher than only six months previously. When looking at the number of those cases which are more than 4 weeks old (the performance target being to take and implement a decision (mark) within 4 weeks), these account for approximately 31% (c. 4,300) of all the unmarked cases.

The submission from the Procurators Fiscals Society also claimed a number of staff on fixed term contracts have not been replaced, and many of the previous years ‘trainee solicitors’ with the COPFS had not been offered new contracts. The PFS told msps COPFS is already operating with significantly fewer legal staff and that there is work in the offices that cannot be done within existing resources and targets.

However, a statement released today by the Crown Office ‘sought to correct’ some of the claims by the Procurators Fiscal Society to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, setting the Lord Advocate firmly against some of the PFS claims, in attempts to reassure msps who may be minded to take a closer inspection of Scotland’s widely disrespected prosecution service.

The Crown Office statement :

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC has written to Christine Grahame MSP, Convener of the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee to confirm that workload and staffing levels within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) are sufficient to deal with local increases in numbers of cases that have been reported by the police in recent weeks to some Procurator Fiscal offices.

The Lord Advocate reassured the Committee that some misleading and erroneous assertions in various media reports had been made around the written submission by the Procurator Fiscal Society (PFS) on 25 October to the Committee in relation to its scrutiny of the Draft Budget 2012/13 & Spending Review 2011.

He said: “Within the constraints on the public purse, COPFS has been given priority in the Spending Review. Its total budget in 2014/15 will be £108.7M compared with £108.2M this year. “The COPFS aims to take a decision in 75% of cases within 4 weeks of reports being submitted by the police who aim to report 80% of cases within 28 days of caution and charge. For the year to date COPFS is currently meeting the target in 84% of cases. COPFS and the police also work closely together to ensure that cases which are reported are processed by both organisations to comply with statutory timebars.”

“COPFS has sufficient staff to deliver a modern prosecution service for Scotland. Although there have been recent localised increases in reports submitted to Procurators Fiscal, our use of modern IT systems to move the work around the country as necessary means that COPFS responds more effectively to such fluctuations than ever before.”

“There is no risk that our present staffing levels would lead to cases in our current workload becoming subject to timebar. The number of cases awaiting decision as at the start of this week amounted to just over 2 weeks of the average weekly reports received from the police, which is normal and is an acceptable level of “work in progress”.

The Lord Advocate also clarified that the COPFS does have sufficient staff and there has been no overall increase in the number of cases reported to COPFS each year. He said: “By mid year this year COPFS had 513 lawyers compared with 505 in mid year 2009. “The annual number of cases received by COPFS has decreased and has been running at below 280,000 since 2009/10 compared with 320,000 in 2005/06 (when COPFS had 433 lawyers).”

The PFS submission to the Committee also made reference to COPFS not employing former trainee solicitors. The Lord Advocate set out the COPFS position: “It has never been the case that a legal traineeship with COPFS guaranteed a permanent post upon qualification as a solicitor. COPFS have work which is ideally suited to legal trainees and see the operation of a training programme as financially efficient as well as providing crucial investment in the future of the Scottish legal system. We also see this as an opportunity to put something back into the profession and give high quality legal graduates the opportunity to qualify as a solicitor. COPFS offers an excellent traineeship and all who have trained with us are well placed to apply for positions across the legal profession.“

The Procurators Fiscal Society represents over 300 members of mainly legal staff within COPFS. It began in 1930 as a professional association, and operated for over 60 years on that basis. In the early 1990s the Society became a section of First Division Association - the trade union representing senior managers and professionals in the Civil Service.

The current spat between the Lord Advocate & the Procurators Fiscal Society are a world away from the relationship under previous administrations where lavish dinners held in honour of the PFS’ 75 year anniversary saw then Lord Advocate Colin Boyd praise the society, saying : “I am very pleased to be here to mark the 75th anniversary of the Procurators Fiscal Society. The Service and the Society have a long tradition of working together to serve the public.”

However, there are many who doubt the COPFS actually serve society and the public interest, after investigations by Diary of Injustice & the Sunday Mail newspaper revealed the Crown Office REFUSED to prosecute FOURTEEN solicitors for legal aid fraud involving huge sums of public money. An additional investigation by Diary of Injustice revealed one of the alleged fraudsters who the Crown Office refused to prosecute, was married to a Procurator Fiscal.

Clearly the Justice Committee should make the time for a full investigation into Scotland’s Crown Office and how the criminal justice system does not make the punishment fit the crime, when vested interests collide.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your call to MSPs to investigate the Crown Office's refusal to prosecute any one of the 14 solicitors suspected of legal aid fraud.

Some service for £108 million pounds!

Anonymous said...

This is the same Crown Office who ruined the reputation of Scots Law forever and turned a blind eye to the buying up of witnesses in the Lockerbie Trial.

Should we have any sympathy they are now arguing with each other because the money is running out for their cushy jobs?


Anonymous said...

Timebar has already struck out cases so what is Mulholland trying to say?

Either the staff are there or not.Which is it?

Anonymous said...

Not to worry all I'm sure they can find a few bent judges from your other report this week willing to hand out quickie guilty verdicts & higher than usual sentences to make up for it all.

Anonymous said...

Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) which received £108.2 MILLION POUNDS from the Scottish Government to ‘fight crime’

Money not very well spent..

Anonymous said...

How do you get stress with £108m and why the hell are we keeping 513 lawyers on the go if they cant even do their bloody job on that amount?

The legal system is taking all of us for a ride not just those thieving lawyers you keep exposing who fiddle their clients.

Anonymous said...

Looks a bit cheap Scotland's top law officer having to scrap with his own PFs don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Naughty you.I thought this was to be released on Monday?

Anonymous said...

Surely the Justice Committee will demand to have them both return and explain themselves?
Well they would if this was a modern democracy where the justice system is not in dictatorship over the people.
No doubt Holyrood's small town council style of questioning will just allow this one to pass like everything else.

Anonymous said...

The same Crown Office who want to criminalise singing "God Save the Queen" and making the sign of the cross - bah we dont need this mob and just look at the money we are throwing at them! What a disgrace!

Anonymous said...

Lord Advocate has written to Christine Grahame.. wasting his time he is for Justice Committee boss Grahame is too busy laying down motions in the Scottish Parliament about Halloween

Motion S4M-01168: Christine Grahame, Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/10/2011

That the Parliament notes the Americanisation of Halloween, whereby guising has become a commercialised trick or treat event with pumpkins, and urges the Scottish Government to take steps to bring back the tumshie.

Face it kiddo no one gives a fuck about the justice system until it bites them in the ass

May it bite all you assholes in the ass one day as it did to me and then you can run crying to your trick or treaters who will take a little more of your money before telling you to fuck off and leaving you high & dry


Anonymous said...

Oh well I kinda get the feeling Scotland got the parliament it deserved so prepare for your little country to be turned into a one party state backed up by road killing lawyers working for the Scottish Government *maybe its happened already*

Anonymous said...

So in between dressing up as ghosts what are the msps saying about all this?

It almost sounds like Mulholland is accusing his own PFs of lying to the Scottish Parliament and if so who is going to be held accountable?

Anonymous said...

It is a good job we the public are not failing. We remain firmly united against self regulation and by the way our numbers well exceed ten thousand. You judges are an unprofessional disgrace and a shameful embarrassment to all.

Believe us there is more than one way to skin a cat and we are watching you lot very closely.

Anonymous said...

and while all this goes on back home in Scotland Alex Salmond is in the middle east cosying up to his owners & donors while opening a new office of McGrigors law firm in Qatar

Scots law firm opens new Qatar HQ


The First Minister Alex Salmond today officially opened a new business base for the Scottish law firm McGrigors in the Qatari capital, Doha.

On the first full day of his five-day visit to Qatar and the UAE, Mr Salmond said:

"By establishing a new base in this part of the Middle East, McGrigors are recognising this is an exciting time for business in this region. From its headquarters in the impressive Tornado Tower in the centre of Doha's financial district, it will play a leading part in supporting the energy, infrastructure and professional and financial services which are at the centre of the vision for this nation.

"Law firms, like all businesses, have had to grapple with the challenging environment following the credit crunch and the ensuing recession. The opening of this office by McGrigors is a demonstration of their commitment to the long-term future of growing business in the region."

James Elwen, a Partner and Head of McGrigors Qatar office, said that he is excited about the chance to encourage greater commercial links between Scotland and Qatar.

McGrigors are on Solicitors from Hell

and also worth reading

Anonymous said...

Release date is TODAY 31st October!

I like your headline with the £108m poured into this bunch of institutionally you know whats!