Cases notified to COPFS by SEPA (R011095)
Thank you for your request dated 4 December 2015 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for the undernoted information:
“1. A note of the numbers of cases notified to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in the period from 1 November 2012 to date by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency relating to operators of fin fish farms in respect of (a) their water-based facilities and (b) in respect of their facilities on land. Please give sub-totals for each calendar year or part thereof in the said period.2. In relation only to such facilities located in the area of Argyll & Bute Council a detailed breakdown giving (a) the names of the operators (b) the sites affected (c) the date(s) of the referral(s) (d) the charges, if any, which resulted and (e) the outcomes of proceedings following on such charges.”
As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations.
Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. This was due to the manual examination of case papers which required to be carried out in order to provide the information in the response. I can advise that two cases have been notified to COPFS in the period from 1 November 2012 to 4 December 2015, by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in relation to operators of fin fish farms. Both these reports were received in 2014 and are located in the area of Argyll & Bute Council. No decision has yet been taken in respect of proceedings.
I consider that the information you have requested in relation to the (a) names of the operators; (b) the sites affected; (c) the date(s) of the referral(s); and (d) the charges, if any, which resulted are exempt from release under Section 34 of FOISA as these reports are held by a Scottish Public Authority, namely the Procurator Fiscal, for the purposes of an investigation which the Procurator Fiscal has a duty to conduct to ascertain whether a person or company should be prosecuted for an offence and I do not consider that it would be appropriate to release information into the public domain where there is the potential for proceedings. It is therefore exempt from release in terms of Section 34(1)(a)(i) of FOISA.
This is not an absolute exemption and I have therefore considered whether the public interest favours disclosure of the information, notwithstanding the exemption. I consider that there is a strong public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of information submitted by the Police and other agencies to the Procurator Fiscal in connection with allegations of criminality. The Courts have traditionally placed great emphasis on assertions on confidentiality in relation to information contained in such reports. The confidentiality of such information ensures that the agencies involved in the criminal justice process can report to the Procurator Fiscal in a manner which is free and frank.
I can also confirm that as no decision has yet been taken in respect of proceedings, there is as yet no outcome of proceedings and accordingly, in terms of Section 17 of FOISA, I can confirm that we do not hold information in relation to the outcome of proceedings.