Saturday, September 02, 2006

50,000 criminal cases dropped last year in Scottish courts through delays and incompetence

In a staggering revelation this week, it was reported by the media that some 50,000 criminal cases were dropped last year by Fiscals before going to court .

No wonder it's difficult to get anything into the Scottish Courts these days ... and it looks like one of the main reasons for these cases being dropped, is the fact that many of the agencies involved in such cases - just took too long to handle the reports and other matters needed to raise them before a Court .... although you can bet there will be a certain level of incompetency within the Crown Office itself, in this report on the shameful state of our Scottish Justice system

Read on for the article, from the Herald, at :

50,000 cases dropped last year before going to court
LUCY ADAMS, Home Affairs Correspondent September 01 2006

Almost 50,000 cases were dropped by prosecutors last year before going to court.

More than 7400 were thrown out because police and other agencies such as the DVLA and children's reporter sent reports to procurators-fiscal too late and many offences are time-barred.

Statutory offences, such as road traffic violations, have to be reported and acted on within six months.

New figures from the Crown Office reveal that 48,929 reports to procurators-fiscal were marked no proceedings last year.

Almost 13,000 cases were dropped because they were considered too trivial.

Although tens of thousands of cases were dropped between April 2005 and March 2006, the figure was significantly lower than the previous year. The proportion of cases marked 'no proceedings' was 14.4% compared to 18.5% of the total number of reports the previous year. Officials said improved joint working between police and fiscals has helped reduce the figure.

However, a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary last week indicated that more needs to be done to address the time-consuming problem of trivial cases being passed on to the fiscal.

The new figures also indicate a significant increase in cases sent to the fiscal which are thrown out because they are "not a crime".

The inspectorate said forces should not "waste valuable resources reporting cases to the procurators-fiscal that will result in no proceedings."

Overall, the number of reports sent to the fiscal was 339,415 – 23% up on 2002.

Officials said the introduction of the new Scottish Crime Recording Standard in April 2004 had resulted in an increase in the number of cases going to fiscals. The victim-orientated standard called for all offences, such as broken windows, to be recorded as crimes even in the absence of evidence.

The Crown said prosecuting such cases would be disproportionate to the seriousness of them and would prevent the police and the court service from targeting resources on more serious crime.

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: "We are working closely with police forces to implement a joint protocol on police reporting which allows greater scope for police to use more immediate measures to deal with crime – such as warnings and fixed penalties – instead of sending a report to the fiscal.

"These statistics are proof that police and procurators-fiscal are dealing with crime in the most appropriate manner, ranging from immediate action on the part of the police through to reporting to the procurators-fiscal.

"In all cases a decision on the appropriate course of action is taken by a member of legal staff following careful consideration of the report."

The police said delays may be caused when they have to track down witnesses, analyse drugs evidence or fail to get responses from drivers given fixed penalty notices.

Dumfries and Galloway Chief Constable David Strang, of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos), said: "Acpos, along with the Crown Office and other prosecuting agencies, is aware that there is a need to reduce the volume of cases going through the courts."

This is particularly relevant within the summary justice system, which deals with crimes at the minor end of the scale.

"We are working with our partners in the criminal justice area to look at a number of non-reporting options." A vast amount of work is already under way to address these issues and we expect to see even more positive results in the future."

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