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COPFS

Unpaid Fixed Penalties

17 April 2013

FOI REQUEST:     UNPAID FIXED PENALTIES

Thank you for your request of 27 February 2013 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), for information on “how many Fixed Penalty Notices cases have appeared in court since 2007”.  On 1 March, we asked you for clarification of what you required as there were two possible interpretations of your request

 

  • How many unpaid Conditional Offers of Fixed Penalty issued by COPFS (for road traffic etc offences) subsequently call in court

  • How many unpaid Fixed Penalty Notices issued by the Police - subsequently reported to COPFS had court proceedings instructed

On 4 March you confirmed that you wished to have both of these questions answered. 

Question 1:  How many unpaid Conditional Offers of Fixed Penalty issued by COPFS (for road traffic etc offences) subsequently call in court

We estimate that due to the volume of persons issued with conditional offers in the last 5 years, checking the case records manually, which is what would be required to comply with this request would cost in excess of £600

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) uses a live operational case management system, specifically designed to receive criminal and death reports from the police and other specialist reporting agencies, and to manage the cases for prosecution purposes.  The information held on the system is structured for these operational needs, rather than for statistical reporting or research purposes. Accordingly it is the first decision which is able to be easily ascertained from the system. As a result in order to allow tracking of cases which proceed to court it can be that in certain circumstances the initial decision not to proceed in court is later amended on the system once the instruction is changed and the decision in the  case is changed to one for court proceedings.  That means it is not possible to easily ascertain if a case was initially marked for issue of a Conditional Offer of Fixed Penalty by COPFS.

Section 1(1) of FOISA does not oblige a Scottish public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request exceeds a specified financial threshold, which is currently £600.  Question 2:  How many unpaid Fixed Penalty Notices issued by the Police - subsequently reported to COPFS had court proceedings instructed

Cases reported by the police (or other specialist reporting agencies) to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service are flagged to identify those which result from an earlier Fixed Penalty Notice issued by the reporting agency (PFN) having been declined or not paid. 

The conditional offer that is issued by the Procurator Fiscal advises individuals that in the event of non-payment a prosecution will take place.

The table below shows only the initial decisions taken by COPFS for the accused reported in this way.  However as indicated above it would not be possible to ascertain cases initially marked for direct measure that were ultimately proceeded with in court as a result of subsequent updated instruction without a manual search of all unpaid Fixed Penalty Notice cases However, I can confirm that when a Procurator Fiscal Direct Measure is offered in such circumstances there is a presumption if it is not paid within the prescribed time that a prosecution will follow.

No action would be taken in situations where the original Fixed Penalty notice issued by the police was unpaid because the accused could not be traced, or where accused had died, or where there were other circumstances which prevented the Crown from raising proceedings.



Description

Year case received

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12



Number of persons reported to Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service issued by the Police for unpaid Fixed Penalties

13,459

8,948

10,306

10,484



Initial decision taken to take court proceedings

1,680

1,252

1,323

1,114



Initial decision taken to deal with offence(s) as direct measure

11,369

7,433

8,762

9,143



Initial decision - No action

410

263

221

227