Media investigation exposes criminal records of Scots Prosecutors. AMID THE charm offensive around the appointment of James Wolffe QC to the position of Lord Advocate – the centuries old position in charge of what is now the £112m a year Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) - it has emerged transparency has been given the axe after the Crown Office refused to release further details of serous criminal offences committed by COPFS staff and prosecutors.
Among the criminal charges against Scots Prosecutors – revealed earlier this year in a media investigation- are charges relating to misuse of drugs – thought to relate to the use of, or potential dealing of Class A substances such as cocaine, assaults against Police Officers, threats, perverting the course of justice, and breaches of the Official Secrets Act.
Journalists again approached the Crown Office again for information relating to specific charges against COPFS staff including those relating to Misuse of drugs offences, what kind or type of drugs related to the charges, and information contained in what specific charges were made against COPFS staff in relation to “offences against the police”.
However, the Crown Office refused to release any further details of the criminal offences committed by their own team - on the basis disclosure of the information may lead to the identification of those found guilty of serious criminal offences.
The shocking move by the Crown Office under the charge of newly fast-tracked QC & Solicitor General Allison Di Rollo, and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC - comes as figures emerge of even more criminal convictions of Crown Office Prosecutors and staff.
In addition to 15 cases of criminal charges raised against Prosecutors & COPFS staff already revealed in an investigation by the Scottish Sun newspaper in March 2016, the Crown Office have now been forced to admit a further 15 cases of criminal charges against their own team – between 2010 and 2013.
And, only 4 out of the 15 cases of newly revealed criminal charges against Crown Office employees & Prosecutors were taken to court.
In the new data released by the Crown Office in response to a Freedom of Information request, COPFS disclosed:
Between January 2010 and November 2013, we retain records showing 15 cases reported to COPFS containing allegations of criminal offences by COPFS staff. Court proceedings were taken in four of those cases, eight cases were dealt with by non- court disposal and no proceedings were taken in three cases.
The charges brought against staff include assault; road traffic offences; breach of the peace and computer misuse.
Guilty verdicts were recorded in the four cases where court proceedings were raised.
The new information comes after COPFS previously admitted it retained records from November 2013 to November 2015 showing 15 cases reported to COPFS containing allegations of criminal offences by COPFS staff.
Court proceedings were taken in 11 cases, three cases were disposed of by non-court disposal and no proceedings were taken in one case.
The charges brought against staff include assault and vandalism; road traffic offences; threatening and abusive conduct; breach of the peace; Misuse of drugs/offences against the police; data protection offences/attempt to pervert the course of justice.
In the 11 cases where court proceedings were raised, these were concluded as follows: Guilty plea accepted (4); accused found guilty after trial (1); case marked for no further action (1); court proceedings active (4).
And – the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) – who was asked to review the Crown Office refusal to disclose further details – said it could not become involved in the investigation, citing rules which allow the Lord Advocate to deem secret any information or data he so choses.
The SIC said it could not act because “Section 48 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 states that no application may be made to the Commissioner following on from such a request for review where information held by the Lord Advocate as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland. This includes any information held by the Crown Office in connection with the investigation and/or prosecution of crime, or the investigation of sudden deaths and/or fatal accidents.
It has now been suggested internal COPFS processes governing which staff are assigned to cases have broke down on many occasions, resulting in Crown Office employees with criminal records working on key prosecution cases – some of which suspiciously collapsed.
A legal insider has backed up the notion certain high profile criminal cases and prosecutions resulting in significantly less sentences, and plea deals - instead of big time hits against well known crime figures – may have been affected by defence teams ‘familiarity’ with certain Crown Agents and staff
Speaking to Diary of Injustice earlier this week, a leading Criminal Defence solicitor suggested it may now be worth asking Procurators Fiscal to declare – in court- any criminal charges or convictions before they proceed to represent the Crown in a prosecution.
The solicitor said: “If my client is being prosecuted for a particular type of criminal offence, I believe it is in the interests of justice for the court to be made aware the Procurator Fiscal may have a criminal conviction for the same, or a potentially more serious offence.”
In certain cases, prosecutions may well have been compromised after Crown Office personnel leaked information to criminals – as occurred in one case (among others) where a COPFS employee was found guilty of breaking the Official Secrets Act and passing details to known crooks.
The revelations of Crown Office informants handing over key files and tips on COPFS investigations to crooks are a considerable blow to law enforcement organisations such as Police Scotland and international law enforcement organisations from other countries – who share evidence with the Crown Office in the hopes of putting away criminals, drug dealers and gangsters.
PROSECUTORS CRIMINAL RECORDS REVEALED:
Crooks among Them – Prosecutors own crime gang revealed. The only case where a COPFS employee was found guilty after trial relates to that of Iain Sawers, 27, from Edinburgh, who was found guilty of passing information to the criminal fraternity - during a seven-day trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in September 2014.
A jury found Sawers guilty on a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, the Official Secrets Act and nine under the Data Protection Act.
Sawers joined the Productions Office of the Procurator Fiscal Service in Chambers Street in the city in 2008.
His induction covered security of information and the warning that any breach could lead to disciplinary proceedings. He was also told, under the Official Secrets Act, the unauthorised disclosure of documents was an offence.
The offences by Sawers came to light when police began an investigation into the case of 27-year old Calum Stewart on charges of breach of bail and attempting to pervert the course of justice by threatening his ex-partner, Kelli Anne Smillie, if she gave evidence in a trial in July, 2013.
Stewart paid for her and her mother to leave the country and go on holiday to Benidorm on the week of the trial.
The police investigations led them to a number of phone calls and text messages between Stewart and Sawers between 24 and 29 January 2014.
These led to Stewart phoning Kelli Anne threatening her and her mother. They were to be witnesses in the outstanding trial which has since been deserted by the Crown.
The police also recovered Sawers' iPhone. Although many messages had been deleted, forensic experts were able to recover them and the telephone numbers of the senders and receiver. They showed that between April 2008 and January 2014, Sawers had passed on information to other people on nine occasions.
A check on the productions office computer showed shortly after receiving a call, Sawers' secret personal user number was used to access the information.
The jury also found Stewart guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice and breach of bail. Neither men gave evidence during the trial – much to the relief of the Lord Advocate.
The Crown Office also admitted 40 staff had been subject to disciplinary action, been suspended, dismissed or have been moved to other duties as a result of disciplinary action between January 2013 to late last year and that 14 of those staff members were suspended in the period requested. The reasons for suspension included allegations related to potential criminal activity and/or charged by Police; and breach of trust.
Of the 40 members of staff who were suspended, 10 were dismissed from the Crown Office.
However officials refused to identify the reasons for their dismissal, insisting they wished to protect the identities of their colleagues and nature of the sackings.
A legal insider has since indicated former Crown Office staff including some of those who were sacked for disciplinary offences or had left COPFS in relation to allegations of criminal conduct or criminal charges - are back working with private law firms and public bodies with links to the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Sun newspaper reported further, here:
EXCLUSIVE by RUSSELL FINDLAY 7 Mar 2016
COPS charged 15 Crown Office workers with crimes including drugs, police assault and perverting the course of justice.
Violence, vandalism, threats and data breaches were also among the alleged offences.
And 11 of those cases reported over the last two years went to court.
A source said: “The nature of the criminal charges are very serious.
“The Crown Office should be beyond reproach as it’s responsible for highly sensitive information about the most serious crimes and sudden deaths.”
Four of the 11 employees taken to court pleaded guilty, one case was dropped, four are ongoing and the outcome of one is unknown.
It's thought Edinburgh Procurator Fiscal’s office worker Iain Sawers, 26, is the only one found guilty.
He was jailed for 18 months in 2014 for attempting to pervert the course of justice by leaking details of cases.
The information about staff charges from the two years to November 2015 was unearthed using freedom of information laws.
Similar data on police officers accused of crimes is published by the Scottish Police Authority.
Last night, Scottish Tory justice spokesman Margaret Mitchell said: “The Crown Office should be no different from Police Scotland in that they should routinely publish this information.”
The Crown Office is Scotland’s prosecution agency headed by the country’s most senior law officer Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland.
A spokesman said: “We employ more than 1,600 staff, the overwhelming majority of whom uphold our high standards of professionalism. Any breach of rules is dealt with swiftly and appropriately.”
For previous articles on the Crown Office, read more here: Scotland's Crown Office - in Crown detail