Investigation reveals Scotland’s Crown Office has been over-eager to get in on the bankers bonus culture while crime fighting suffers. AS major parts of Scotland’s criminal & civil justice system descend into farce, with trials involving charges for breach of the peace up to attempted murder & fraud being abandoned on an almost daily basis, suspects accused of even the most serious offences being allowed bail, refusals or failures to prosecute instances of racially motivated crimes, sexual assaults & high profile failures on alleged sectarian offences & criticisms from the judiciary over the state of the courts, an investigation has revealed prosecutors & other employees at Scotland’s much criticised & failing Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) are benefiting from the bankers style bonus culture to the tune of HALF A MILLION POUNDS A YEAR, according to figures obtained from the Crown Office under Freedom of Information laws.
Crown Office staff appear more focussed on bonus culture than taking cases to trial with enough evidence in Scotland’s courts. The figures, reported in the Sunday Mail newspaper reveals that the Crown Office, under the current Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, which costs taxpayers a staggering ONE HUNDRED & EIGHT MILLION POUNDS A YEAR has been dishing out bonuses of up to TWENTY THOUSAND POUNDS at a time to its senior employees and that bonuses of FOUR to EIGHT THOUSAND POUNDS are commonplace among higher end staff while others at the Crown Office have to make do with much smaller bonuses of £500 - £1,000 a year. These revelations come at a time when prosecutors have been blaming the failure of over a thousand cases on the infamous Cadder v HMA ruling which saw the right to legal representation while being interrogated by Police brought into Scots law for the first time after a UK Supreme Court ruling which itself was castigated by senior politicians including the Justice Secretary & First Minister for alleged interference in the Scottish justice system.
Yet as the ink was barely dry on the release of the Crown Office’ bonus culture statistics, a Scottish Government insider has since come forward to Diary of Injustice this morning, admitting that “had it not been for the massive public sector finance cuts caused by the recession, the bonuses paid to Crown Office employees would have been significantly higher than half a million.”
Diary of Injustice recently reported in late October on arguments within the Crown Office over case backlogs & lost prosecutions, which culminated in the Lord Advocate attempting to refute claims from his own staff they were short of money and not enough in number to tackle crime : Lord Advocate tells Holyrood his own Fiscals are wrong over claims of case backlog & ‘stress’ as £108 million pours into failing Crown Office
In the wake of the latest revelations of a self serving Crown Office, there are growing numbers of Scots who feel the Crown Office has become an unaccountable public body which is out of control and in need of significant reform after being hit by constant scandals over collapsed high profile cases, corruption and allegations of institutional racism and even sectarianism amongst its employees.
Earlier this year questions were raised over the impartiality of the Crown Office in connection with prosecutions against the legal profession when 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.
And in what must be one of the most staggering wastes of resources many have seen from the Crown Office for a long time, around HALF A MILLION POUNDS has been spent by COPFS and a variety of other justice connected public bodies including several Police Forces on one single Breach of the Peace trial against an anti-abuse campaigner, as reported on Scottish Law Reporter here : The £1/2 Million Breach of the Peace charge, 13 hearings, 15,000 travel miles, Cross Border Police seizures, surveillance & a former Lord Advocate
The Sunday Mail reports on the bonus culture at the Crown Office ;
WHAT PRICE JUSTICE ? Crown Office staff net £580k in bonus payments in just two years
Dec 18 2011 Exclusive by Russell Findlay, Sunday Mail
STAFF at the Crown Office have pocketed bonus payments of more than £580,000 in just two years, we can reveal. Two years ago, 419 workers shared payouts totalling £326,844, while 518 were handed £253,330 for 2010-11.
The bonus culture in Scotland's prosecution service can be revealed days after a sheriff claimed underfunding was hampering justice. The Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service - headed by Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland - has an annual budget of £108million, with £69million of that on staff costs. Bonuses were paid out to around a quarter of the 1650 employees.
Yesterday, MSP Sandra White said: "These public sector workers are paid to do a job - good performance should be in-built, not an added bonus. I would like to know why bonuses were paid, especially given so many high-profile Crown Office failings in recent years."
The Crown Office recently admitted the number of rape cases being prosecuted has dropped. They blamed the fallout from the Cadder ruling, when police interviews without lawyers present threw more than a 1000 cases into doubt. Last week, Dundee Sheriff Richard Davidson hit out at the lack of cash to run jury trials in the city. He revealed that cases were forced into adjournment due to funding problems. We also revealed that the Crown have failed to prosecute any of the 14 lawyers reported for alleged Legal Aid fraud.
Legal reform campaigner Peter Cherbi said: "It hardly seems appropriate that Crown Office staff are being paid bonuses. " The Crown Office say that bonuses are "based on performance levels attained and are made as part of the appraisal process".
A spokesman added: "No bonuses are being paid in 2011-12 and there are no plans to do so in future."