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Comments & Complaints

Useful information before you make a complaint or comment

Our practice

Who are we?

COPFS is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crime in Scotland, the investigation of sudden or suspicious deaths, and the investigation of criminal complaints against the police. Our purpose is to secure justice for the people of Scotland while observing our core values of being professional and showing respect. We have Standards of Service to support and protect victims and witnesses in the Scottish criminal justice system; to make sure they have access to the information they need; and to ensure they are treated fairly. Complaints and comments help us to address dissatisfaction and where something has gone wrong, prevent the same problems from happening again.

Who can make a complaint or comment?

Anyone can make a complaint or comment on our service or work. While we will answer all aspects of dissatisfaction, only complaints which affect you directly will be considered under our Complaints & Comments Policy. If you want someone else to make a complaint to us on your behalf (such as a family member, friend, support group or legal representative) we will need your written permission. This is because we may need to disclose your personal information.

What can you complain or comment about?

If you would like to make a complaint or comment on any aspect of our service, such as a breach of your rights or a breach of our obligations to you, we would like to hear from you. The remedy or outcome you might want could be:

• an apology
• an explanation
• a review of a decision
• the return of property
• compensation.

If you want to complain about something that has happened to someone else it will not be handled through our complaints procedure. Sometimes people complain about their experience of the criminal justice system in general, for example, the investigation of a case by the police or things that happened in court. We can only consider feedback about the service you have received from COPFS. If it relates to another organisation or agency, such as Police Scotland, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, or to the verdict or sentence in a case, please contact those agencies directly.

Are there any time limits?

Complaints should be made as soon as possible and within six months of the matter complained or we will not normally deal with it. If your complaint relates to a current criminal case, we might not be able to respond until the end of the case – for example, until after a trial in court. This will depend on the particular nature and circumstances of the complaint. We will let you know as soon as possible if we need to put your complaint on hold until the case is finished. If you are the victim in a case reported to us, you have a right to ask us to review a decision made on or after 1 July 2015 not to take action in the first place or to stop or discontinue a case after a case has started in court. A request for review should, where possible, be made within one month of the date you learn the decision from us. More information on how to ask for a review is available on our website.

How long do we take to deal with your complaint or comment?

We will acknowledge your contact by phone or email immediately and your contact by letter within three working days. We aim to provide a full response within 20 working days (not including weekends and public holidays); but if that is not possible, for example, due to the enquiries we need to make to resolve your complaint, then we will keep you advised of progress.

What do we learn from complaints and comments about our service?

We regularly analyse feedback from complaints and comments and see what lessons we can learn to improve our service. As part of that, we will review our policies, systems and procedures and make necessary changes, either at a local level or across the whole of COPFS.

For more information, see our COPFS Comments and Complaints Policy, that is also available in an EASY to READ format.


How to make a complaint or comment about our service

Our procedure

How to complain or comment

You can complain or make a comment:

• in person at any Procurator Fiscal office

• by phoning our national Enquiry Point on: 01389 739 557* (rates from mobile telephones may vary by provider)
Our Enquiry Point is open from 08:30 to 18:00 Monday to Thursday; and 08:30 to 17:00 on Friday. 

*Please note that COPFS' number is changing from the start of October 2017 to 0300 020 3000. 
More about this

• for RNID Typetalk prefix our telephone number with 18001

• for callers with a hearing impairment text 07825 280346, letting us know if you would prefer your reply by SMS text message or email - calls will be answered in the first instance by our Enquiry Point.
Please note that if you contact us by telephone, we might sometimes ask you to make your complaint in writing, by email or letter. This could happen if we are unable to clarify the nature of your complaint over the telephone or if your complaint is complex.

• by e-mailing our Enquiry Point with a query or comment: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
• by e-mailing our Response & Information Unit with a complaint: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

• by writing to us:
Response & Information Unit
Crown Office
25 Chambers Street
Edinburgh EH1 1LA

The information we need from you

To help us, the information we need from you includes:

• your full name
• your contact details
• what remedy or outcome you want
• if it relates to a case:

- what, if any, is your relationship with it e.g. victim, witness, accused
- where and what happened - when did it happen
- any COPFS, police or court reference numbers
- the names of any of our staff you have been in contact with.

• if it relates to a review of a decision not to prosecute in a case in which you are the victim (in addition to the above):

- any new information you have
- the impact this incident had on you including any physical or financial consequences etc. More information on your right to ask for a   review is available on our website.

• if it relates to a complaint about the handling of a death:

- the name of the person who has died
- the date and place the death took place.

An example of how your complaint might look

Here is an example of how your complaint might look:  

We may contact you to ask about any matters that are unclear. We may also ask you for further information.

The timescales we will work to

These are the timescales we will work to:

An acknowledgement of your complaint or comment:
• by telephone: Immediately
• by e-mail: Immediately (automated acknowledgement)
• by letter: Within three working days

A full response will be given:
• within 20 working days (this excludes weekends and public holidays)

Where we require clarification of the nature of your complaint, we will contact you and place your complaint on hold until we hear from you. Once we receive your response, we will reply as quickly as possible and within 20 working days.

Where a complaint is complex and requires careful consideration and detailed investigation beyond the 20 working days target, we will keep you updated on the reason for delay and give you a revised timescale for bringing the investigation to a conclusion.

How your complaint or comment will be dealt with

Depending on the nature and complexity of your complaint or comment it might be possible to resolve it through our ‘Quick Resolution’ process. A complaint about a legal matter or a request for a review of a decision not to prosecute will not normally be dealt with by Quick Resolution. More information on your right to ask for a review is available on our website.

Quick Resolution:
1. We make brief enquiries into your complaint and then contact you:
• to provide an explanation and resolution of your complaint within five working days; or
• to let you know when we anticipate we will be able to reply fully - we may ask you if we can extend this to more than five working days; or
• if your complaint relates in part to the actions of another organisation we will advise you how to complain to them.

Formal investigation:
2. If your complaint cannot be resolved straight away when you first contact us:
• we will carry out a formal investigation and aim to respond within 20 working days or keep you informed if there is any delay. 

A review of a decision not to prosecute:
3. If you are asking for a review of a decision not to prosecute in a case in which you are the victim, we will consider the circumstances of the case and whether the decision not to prosecute was a reasonable one. We will reply in writing advising of our decision and the matters that we took into account in considering it. More information on your right to ask for a review is available on our website

Complaints about COPFS staff:
4. Complaints about senior members of staff require careful handling to ensure there is no conflict of interest. When serious complaints are raised against senior staff, they will generally be handled by the Head of our Response and Information Unit in the first instance. In appropriate circumstances another senior member of staff who has no direct involvement in the complaint, will carry out an investigation.

If you are not happy with our response

If you are dissatisfied with how we handle your complaint you are entitled to raise that with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). The SPSO is the final stage for complaints about most organisations providing public services in Scotland. Their service is independent, free and confidential.

For more information, see our Comments and Complaints Policy, that is also available in an Easy to Read format.