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Reasons for Decisions - Crown Office Circular 13 of 2010

Freedom of Information - Reasons for Decisions - Crown Office Circular 13 of 2010

Thank you for your request dated 18 February 2014 for sight of Crown Office Circular 13 of 2010.

We are treating this as a request for information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

COPFS is committed to providing information wherever possible.  In considering your request I have had regard to the decision in the Inner House of the Court of Session in Glasgow City Council v the Scottish Information Commissioner [2009] CSIH 73.  A copy of the opinion of the court can be found at http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2009CSIH73.html. I would draw your particular attention to paragraph [43] of the court’s opinion in which it is stated:

“What a person can request, in terms of section 1(1), is the information which has been recorded, rather than the record itself. The right conferred by section 1, where it applies, is therefore to be given the information, rather than a particular record (or a copy of the record) that contains it. Put shortly, the Act provides a right of access to information, not documentation.  

The Scottish Information Commissioner issued guidance in 2010 stating that public authorities should not automatically refuse requests for copies of documents, as long as it is reasonably clear from the request that it is the information recorded in the document that the applicant wishes to be released.  On that basis, while we will not be providing you with a copy of the Circular itself, I have considered whether it is possible to provide you with some of the relevant information contained within it.  This is provided at Annex A.

Annex A – relevant excerpts from Crown Office Circular 13 of 2010

Historically, the Procurator Fiscal's reasons for making decisions were confidential and were not divulged to any third party.  Over time this policy has been revised and the presumption is now that information on marking decisions and progress of cases in ALL categories of case should now be given to ALL victims witnesses and nearest relativesof a victim in a homicide or death case who ask for it unless there are issues of confidentiality or operational reasons;

Disclosure to Victims, witnesses or Nearest Relatives

As a general rule Procurators Fiscal may give reasons to victims and nearest relatives of a victim in a homicide or death case for the decisions unless they fall within the kinds of circumstances indicated below.

Procurators Fiscal are instructed to be proactive in the provision of information to nearest relatives in all deaths cases by providing the information without being asked to do so.  VIA also pro-actively provides information in relation to cases involving:

  • solemn proceedings;
  • domestic abuse;
  • hate crime, namely offences aggravated by prejudices in relation to race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and disability;
  • sexual offences;
  • child victims or child witnesses;
  • vulnerable victims or witnesses; and
  • Cases referred by legal staff that would benefit from VIA involvement.

When Reasons Cannot be Provided to the Victim

There may be occasions where information about reasons cannot be provided, for example where information which undermines the victim’s evidence has been received from a confidential but reliable source making it impossible to proceed with a case.  If the reason relates to the personal circumstances of the accused (such as a medical condition) specific information which is likely to breach the accused’s privacy cannot be provided.

Where there are multiple charges/multiple victims, care should be taken not to prejudice ongoing proceedings.  It may not be appropriate to disclose reasons in relation to some charges before all charges have been dealt with.