Practice and procedure
Useful information before you make a complaint or comment
Who we are
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.
We value complaints and comments and use information from them to help us address dissatisfaction and where something has gone wrong, prevent the same problems from happening again.
What is a complaint?
Who can make a complaint or comment?
What can you complain or comment about?
You can complain about things like:
Delays in responding to your enquiries and requests
Failure to provide a service
Our standard of service
Treatment by or attitude of member of staff
Our failure to follow proper procedure
The remedy or outcome you might want could be:
a review of a decision – If you are a victim and your complaint is about a decision not to take court proceedings or a decision to stop the case once it is in court it may be dealt with under our Victims Right to Review guidance
the return of property
What can't I complain about?
There are some things we can’t deal with through our complaints handling procedure. These include:
a routine first-time request for a service – for example a first request for information about the progress of a case
requests for compensation
If you want to complain about something that has happened to someone else without their permission 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?
Normally, you must make your complaint within 6 months of: the event you want to complain about
finding out that you have reason to complain, but no longer than 12 months after the event itself
In exceptional circumstances, we may be able to accept a complaint after the time limit. If you feel that the time limit should not apply to your complaint, please tell us why.
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?
If we can deal with your complaint as a frontline resolution we will respond within 5 days.
If your complaint cannot be resolved by frontline resolution or is complex and requires investigation we will acknowledge your contact by phone, letter or email 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.
Unacceptable Actions Policy
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:
Please see our COPFS Complaints Handling Procedure
How to make a complaint or comment about our service
How to complain or comment
in person at any Procurator Fiscal office
by phoning our national Enquiry Point on: 0300 020 3000
Our Enquiry Point is open from 08:30 to 18:00 Monday to Thursday; and 08:30 to 17:00 on Friday.
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 writing to us:Response & Information Unit, Crown Office, 25 Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LA
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 number
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.
Here is an example of how your complaint might look:
“I am writing to complain about the decision taken by the Procurator Fiscal in the case against John Smith, who was accused of vandalising my car on DATE.
The Procurator Fiscal case reference number is YZ123456.
The case was heard in X Sheriff Court on DATE . I am not happy because…
What I would like you to do is…”
We may contact you to ask about any matters that are unclear. We may also ask you for further information.
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 ‘Frontline 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 Frontline Resolution. More information on your right to ask for a review is available on our website.
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.
If your complaint cannot be resolved straight away when you first contact us:
we will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 3 working days
where appropriate, discuss your complaint with you to understand why you remain dissatisfied and what outcome you are looking for
give you a full response to the complaint as soon as possible and usually within 20 days
If our investigation will take longer than 20 days we will tell you and keep you updated on progress
A review of a decision not to prosecute:
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:
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.
The SPSO cannot normally look at:
a complaint that has not completed our complaints procedure (so please make sure it has done so before contacting the SPSO)
events that happened, or that you became aware of, more than a year ago
a matter that has been or is being considered in court
it should be noted that the SPSO is the final stage for concerns about how we have handled a complaint and is not an appeal body for the decisions we have taken.
You can contact the SPSO:
In Person: By Post
4 Melville Street Freepost (you don’t need
Edinburgh to use a stamp)EH641
EH3 7NS Edinburgh EH3 0BR
Freephone: 0800 377 7330
Online contact www.spso.org.uk/contact-us
Mobile site: http://m.spso.org.uk
Getting help to make your complaint
We understand that you may be unable, or reluctant, to make a complaint yourself. We accept complaints from the representative of a person who is dissatisfied with our service. We can take complaints from a friend, relative, or an advocate, if you have given them your consent to complain for you.
You can find out about advocates in your area by contacting the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance.
Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance
Tel: 0131 260 5380 Fax: 0131 260 5381 Website: www.siaa.org.uk
For more information:
Please see our COPFS Complaints Handling Procedure