Prosecutors to be appointed due to rising case load

MORE specialist prosecutors are to be introduced in a bid to tackle an increasing criminal caseload.

The High Court in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
The High Court in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

Releasing its strategic plan for the next three years, the Crown Office said it would consider the introduction of more specialist units as it attempts to tackle a rise in the number of complex cases it is dealing with.

It said increased specialisation had already brought “significant benefits”.

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There has been a 5 per cent increase in the number of reports it has received from the police compared with 2010, with a 35 per cent rise in domestic abuse cases and a 12 per cent jump in sex offences in the past year.

There are currently prosecution units specialising in so-called “cold cases”, as well as areas such as economic crime, serious and organised crime, domestic abuse and sex crime.

The Crown Office said the nature of cases reported to prosecutors had also changed, with more “complex” cases, such as those involving sexual offences.

Its report states: “Our response to this has been to enhance the prosecution of cases by the introduction of specialist prosecutors and specialist investigation units and we will continue to consider whether this can be developed further.”

In 2013-14, the Crown Office received 303,221 reports – 4 per cent up on the previous year – . including 36,552 domestic abuse and 7,479 sexual offence cases.

Crown Agent Catherine Dyer said: “Each element of the Strategic Plan 2015-2018 is designed to support our purpose to secure justice for the people of Scotland.

“We will continue to work with other parts of the criminal justice system to develop ever more productive working arrangements, performing a key role in the implementation of the various reforms to criminal law and procedure under way and planned in the years ahead, especially improving the quality of justice for victims and witnesses.”

Ms Dyer added: “We also want to ensure our staff are properly equipped to cope with the challenges ahead and remain skilled, motivated and engaged. To that end, improved leadership and management training, together with training in technical skills, form major strands of our people strategy.”

Last year, the Procurator Fiscal Society, part of the FDA union, said the rise in complex work coupled with dwindling resources was creating a “huge risk” for the criminal justice system.

Prosecutors said there had been no additional resources to deal with the extra cases they were dealing with.

In a submission on the SNP government’s draft budget, it said: “Looking at Police Scotland initiatives such as the domestic abuse task force … whilst there was a commitment from the Scottish Government to employ 1,000 additional police officers, there has never been a commensurate rise in the budget of Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service to deal with the inevitable increase in work generated by those additional police.”

The increase in complex work coupled with dwindling resources is creating a “huge risk” for the criminal justice system, according to the Procurator Fiscal Society.