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Section 51A Civic Government (Scotland) Act (R009117)

Freedom of Information: Section 51A Civic Government (Scotland) Act (R009117)

Thank you for your request dated 24 November 2014 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for the undernoted information:

“1. The number of prosecutions to date under s 51A of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 as inserted by s 42 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) 2010 for the possession of an extreme pornographic image. 

2. The number of convictions to date resulting from the above prosecutions. 

3. A breakdown of the above prosecutions and convictions by categorisation of the images giving rise to prosecution in terms of the categories specified in s 51A (6)(a-e) of the 1982 Act.

4. Any pre-existing statistical data, COPFS report or COPFS guidance on the above offence of possession of an extreme pornographic image.” 


Having completed my search for the information you have requested, I can advise that from 28 March 2011 to 25 November 2014 COPFS have raised proceedings in relation to 228 charges under Section 51A(1) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.  197 of these charges are at solemn court level and 31 of these charges are at summary court level.

57 convictions have been obtained at solemn court level and 16 convictions have been obtained at summary court level.  As at 25 November 2014, 71 prosecutions were still ongoing at solemn court level and 6 at summary court level.

In respect of Part 3 of your request,in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600.  Under Section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under Section 12.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service's case management database is a live, operating database.  It is designed to meet this Department's business needs in relation to the processing of criminal cases, and the information within it is structured accordingly.  We do not have a separate database, and hold only operational data needed for business purposes, ie 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.

In order to identify the categories of the images in relation to the charges, Crown Office staff would be required to consider individually each report submitted which contained offences under Section 51A(1) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 to identify which category applies to the images and as this offence is frequently reported along with other offences under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, the time taken to complete this task would exceed the upper cost limit.

In respect of Part 4, I can advise that there is no pre-existing statistical data or COPFS Report in relation to extreme pornographic images and accordingly, in terms of Section 17(1) of FOISA, this information is not held by COPFS.

I consider that COPFS guidance in relation to Section 51A(1) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 is exempt from disclosure to you in terms of Section 35(1)(b) of FOISA.  As this is not an absolute exemption I have been required to consider the public interest in applying the exemption.  I consider that disclosure would be likely to substantially prejudice the prosecution of offenders for the following reasons:

  • Disclosure would potentially bar the Crown from taking an alternative course of action from that contained in a policy which has been made public; or
  • Disclosure would allow offenders to circumvent the law by restricting their offending to conduct which falls short of a prosecution threshold or, for example, a threshold which determines the prosecution forum.