It is held on behalf of the Lord Advocate in order to guard against conflict of interest in prosecutorial decision making. It is designed to ensure that impartiality can be demonstrated in relation to any individual making prosecutorial decisions or involvement in the preparation or presentation of any case.
The Register is not published. To provide information about the personal interests of prosecution staff could compromise the security of individual staff members, undermine their ability to do their job and create conflict with our obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.
In accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, it is our practice not to retain personal information in cases for longer that we require it for business purposes.
Case retention periods are set out in Chapter 6 of our Records Management Manual.
Please note that we do not retain information about death cases, which have not been the subject of criminal proceedings, for longer than five years.
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) came into full force on 1 January 2005. The Act aims to increase openness and accountability in government and across the Scottish public sector by ensuring that people have the right to access information held by Scottish public authorities. The following guide provides a general introduction to FOISA and explains how COPFS handles requests for information.
For more information, visit our Data Protection page.
Normally information required to respond to requests for statistical information will be provided by the Management Information Unit in the Crown Office, rather than by individual Procurator Fiscal offices. Such data is normally obtained from the COPFS case management system. This is a live, operational database designed to meet COPFS business needs, in relation to the processing of criminal cases and the information is structured accordingly. COPFS does not have a separate statistical database and holds only operational data needed for business purposes, eg to prepare court documentation; to send and receive electronic information regarding court appearances and results; to cite witnesses; to deal with issues relating to disclosure of information to the defence etc.
Please note that where the number is below five we are unlikely to be in a position to provide exact information due to our competing obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Please be specific about the information that you are looking for. This helps us to identify what you require and answer it more promptly.
While you do not have to explain why you want the information, if you are happy to do so, it may assist us in answering your request more satisfactorily.
Charging a fee
We do not currently charge for providing information under the freedom of information legislation or environmental regulations. However, the option to charge for photocopying costs is available to us - please see the Publication Scheme [link to Publication Scheme page].
We will decline to deal with a request where we estimate that it will cost more than £600 to locate, retrieve and provide the information. This limit is contained in Freedom of Information Regulations. If you can be precise about the information you require, this will help to keep the request within the cost limit.
Advice and assistance
If we receive a request and need further clarification before we can answer it, we will contact you. We will be unable to start the time period for response until we receive your reply.
Timescales for reply
The Freedom of Information legislation requires public authorities to respond within 20 working days. While we always strive to achieve this target, there are occasions when it is not possible to meet the deadline. We aim to advise you whenever there is likely to be a significant delay.
The Environmental Information Regulations provide the same deadline, but do allow us to extend this up to 40 working days if a request is complex or involves large amounts of information.
Information that we cannot provide
We encourage openness and transparency. We will provide you with the information you have requested when we can. When this has not been possible we will explain why.
Sometimes we are unable to provide the information requested because we do not hold it. If we know of another authority which might be in a position to assist you, we will provide you with contact details.
Where complying with the request would exceed the cost limit, we will decline to deal with the request – see Charging a Fee (above).
We will decline to respond to vexatious or repeated requests. We will also decline to respond to requests which are deliberately burdensome or frivolous or which seek to disrupt our work. Similarly, if you make a request which is the same or substantially similar to a previous request it will be refused if a reasonable amount of time has not elapsed since the first request.
Information which we will not provide
The freedom of information legislation and the Environmental Information Regulations expressly recognise that some information should not be provided. There are a number of exemptions (or exceptions in the case of Environmental Information) that may apply to the information you have requested.
Some exemptions are 'absolute', which means that if the information falls within a particular category we will not be able to give it to you. However, most exemptions require us to explain why there will be 'substantial prejudice, harm or inhibition' to us or others if we released the information, and why it is not in the public interest to provide the information.
Given the nature of our work, not all of the information we hold can be provided for sound public policy reasons. While each request is considered on its own merits, it may be helpful to know that the following list provides examples of information that we will be unlikely to provide to you as the information will fall within one or more of the exemptions set out in the freedom of information legislation.
Any aspect of a criminal investigation which may prejudice or bar future criminal proceedings. Confidential police reports and other case-related records. Information provided by witnesses or victims, including witness statements, as this is regarded as their own personal information or sensitive data within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 1998. It is important to ensure that witnesses and people under investigation should not be inhibited or deterred from co-operating in criminal investigations by the possibility that information provided may be disclosed and their identity revealed to the public without the protection of the court. Information relating to intelligence or security matters. Legal advice given during consideration of legal proceedings.
If COPFS holds the copyright, information may be copied or reproduced without formal permission, provided that: it is copied or reproduced accurately; it is not used in a misleading context; and, the source of the material is identified. We will make it clear if COPFS does not hold the copyright.
Right to Review and Appeal
If we have handled your request under FOISA or the Environmental Information Regulations our response will advise you who you should contact to request that we carry out an internal review of our response. If you wish to request a review, you should tell us why you are unhappy with the response within 40 days of receipt of the reply. We will aim to provide you with our review response within 20 working days.
If you remain unhappy with our response, then under FOISA you have a general right to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner. You should keep copies of all the correspondence you have had with us as if you decide to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner as you will be asked to provide these.
However, under section 48 of FOISA no application may be made to the Commissioner for a decision, under section 48 b) where a review has been carried out by a Procurator Fiscal; or under section 48 c) the Lord Advocate to the extent that the information requested is held by the Lord Advocate as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland. This also applies under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs), where the section 48 b) and c) of FOISA should be read with regulation 17 of the EIRs
The Scottish Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Telephone: 01334 464610
If the information you require is not publicly available, you may request it under the freedom of information legislation or environmental regulations.
Requests for information under the freedom of information legislation must be submitted in a permanent form (usually writing, including email). You can:
1. Write to:
The FOI Team
25 Chambers Street
Requests for environmental information can also be made orally. Please call 0300 020 3000, rates from mobile telephones may vary by provider. Calls through Text Relay should be prefixed with 18001.
If you require advice on submitting your request, you can also call the FOI Team on 0300 020 3000, rates from mobile telephones may vary by provider.
Please click on the links below for more information:
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is required by law to protect the public funds it administers. It may share information provided to it with other bodies responsible for auditing or administering public funds, in order to prevent and detect fraud.
On behalf of the Auditor General for Scotland, Audit Scotland appoints the auditor to audit the accounts of this organisation. It is also responsible for carrying out data matching exercises.
Data matching involves comparing computer records held by one body against other computer records held by the same or another body to see how far they match. This is usually personal information. Computerised data matching allows potentially fraudulent claims and payments to be identified but the inclusion of personal data within a data matching exercise does not mean that any specific individual is under suspicion. Where a match is found it indicates that there may be an inconsistency that requires further investigation. No assumption can be made as to whether there is fraud, error or other explanation until an investigation is carried out. The exercise can also help bodies to ensure that their records are up to date.
Audit Scotland currently requires us to participate in a data matching exercise to assist in the prevention and detection of fraud. We are required to provide particular sets of data to Audit Scotland for matching for each exercise, and these are set out in Audit Scotland's instructions, which can be found here.
The use of data by Audit Scotland in a data matching exercise is carried out with statutory authority, normally under its powers in Part 2A of the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000. It does not require the consent of the individuals concerned under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Data matching by Audit Scotland is subject to a Code of Practice. For this and further information on Audit Scotland's legal powers and the reasons why it matches particular information, please see here.
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We publish information that we hold within the following classes.
Once information is published under a class we will continue to make it available for the current and previous two financial years.
There are nine classes of information in the Publication Scheme - this is under review:
Class 1: About the authority provides information about COPFS, who we are, where to find us, how to contact us, how we are managed and our external relations.
Class 2: How we deliver our functions and services provides information about our work, our strategy and polices for delivering functions and services and information for our service users.
Class 3: How the authority takes decisions and what it has decided provides information about the decisions we take, how we make decisions and how we involve others.
Class 4: What the authority spends and how it spends it provides information about our strategy for and management of financial resources (in sufficient detail to explain how we plan to spend public money and what has actually been spent)
Class 5: How the authority manages its human, physical and information resources provides information about how we manage the human, physical and information resources of the authority.
Class 6: How the authority procures goods and services from external providers provides information about how we procure goods and services, and our contracts with external providers.
Class 7: How our authority is performing contains information about how the authority performs as an organisation and how well it delivers its functions and services.
Class 8: Our commercial publications contains information packaged and made available for sale on a commercial basis. Please note that we do not hold or publish any information under this class.
Class 9: Our open data contains information about open data made available by COPFS as described by the Scottish Government's Open Data Resource Pack and available under an open licence.
Where information has been updated or superseded, only the current version will be available. If you would like to see previous versions, you can ask us for that information.