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COPFS

COMPLAINTS AND FOI REQUESTS RECEIVED BY COPFS

23 April 2013

COMPLAINTS AND FOI REQUESTS RECEIVED BY COPFS

I refer again to your letter dated 13 March and now thank you for your further letter of 25 March in which you provided the clarification I required to process your request for information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).

 

In your letter of 13 March, you asked for the following information:

1. How many letters does the Procurator Fiscal Service receive.

2. What procedures are in place to ensure that they are replied to.

3. How many complaints are received regarding no response to a letter.

4. How many Freedom of Information Requests are ignored (if this information is kept)

5. What sanctions have ever been taken against PFS for late or no response to FOI requests.

6. Have members of PFS been informed or trained regarding FOI.

You have now clarified that the information requested relates specifically to complaints made to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), including to the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General.  You would like this information for letters, e-mails and faxes, and for the period 1 January 2011 to 1 March 2013.  You have also asked for the complaints to be broken down by Sheriffdom, if possible. 

COPFS uses a software package which is generally available on the market to public and private organisations for the recording of complaints.  The system has been specifically tailored to our needs and in addition to complaints, it records general correspondence addressed to the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General for Scotland, requests under FOISA and subject access requests under the Data Protection Act 1998.  When the software was introduced COPFS was structured into 11 geographical areas and I have provided the information to you on that basis, rather than by sheriffdom as that is how our information is held.  COPFS has recently moved to a new structure and our system will be modified to incorporate these changes.

While any member of staff can log a complaint on the system, there are a number of trained co-ordinators who monitor activity.  The system is designed to alert the co-ordinators to cases which are approaching the deadline for reply and continues to do so until the reply is sent and the record closed.

In addition, FOI and subject access requests are currently monitored by our FOI Team which is based in Crown Office.  This team ensures that staff are alerted to forthcoming deadlines and advises on the issue of holding replies when a response cannot be issued within the statutory time frame.

However we are currently in the process of setting up a new national Customer Care Unit.  This Unit, rather than individual Procurator Fiscal offices, will respond to complaints, FOI and subject access requests.

I enclose, for your information, a copy of our current Customer Feedback Policy.  This policy will be changed when the new Unit is set up and, as with existing policy, will be available to view on our website at www.crownoffice.gov.uk.   You will note that the current policy provides for a three-stage complaints policy and so the number items of correspondence on each case will vary. 

In the table below I have provided you with the number of complaints received between 1 January 2011 and 1 March 2013.  I am unable to provide the full number of letters, e-mails and faxes associated with these complaints as to do this would involve reading each record and manually counting all the pieces of correspondence received.  This would exceed the £600 cost limit set out in FOISA and in these circumstances we are not required to carry out this action to answer your request.







2011

2012

2013

(to 1 March)

Argyll & Clyde

64

52

20

Ayrshire

46

41

10

Central

53

50

6

Dumfries & Galloway



15



8



2

Fife

55

38

6

Glasgow

80

80

17

Grampian

58

54

3

Highlands & Islands



28



17



2

Lanarkshire

51

35

8

Lothian & Borders



114



70



16

Tayside

60

67

10

Crown Office

77

96

42



In addition, “Ministerial Correspondence” is received in Crown Office.  This is a category for correspondence addressed to either the Lord Advocate or Solicitor General for Scotland.  Complaints are logged in a different way from that set out above, and each piece of correspondence is given a new number.  Therefore, you will see that the number in the table below is considerably greater than in the table above:





2011

2012

2013

(to 1 March)

All correspondence relating to complaints addressed to Lord Advocate and Solicitor General



272



298



47



With regard to your question about the number of complaints which have been received in relation to no response being issued to a letter, the figures are as follows:





2011

2012

2013

(to 1 March)

Argyll & Clyde

12

3

0

Ayrshire

0

0

0

Central

2

5

0

Dumfries & Galloway



1



0



0

Fife

2

2

1

Glasgow

8

8

4

Grampian

3

1

0

Highlands & Islands



0



1



0

Lanarkshire

2

0

0

Lothian & Borders



4



3



1

Tayside

1

0

1

Crown Office

48

33

8



Your fourth question asks how many Freedom of Information Requests are ignored.  As stated above, the national FOI Unit logs and monitors responses to FOI requests.  No requests identified as FOI requests are ignored.  However, if an office has failed to recognise a request for information as an FOI request, it will not be logged as such on the system.  Against the possibility of this happening, COPFS has Lead Officers in each area with a more detailed knowledge of the FOI legislation who are trained to recognise and action FOI requests.

With regard to your question about sanctions which have been taken against COPFS for late or no response to FOI requests, I can advise you that the Scottish Information Commissioner has issued one decision upholding a complaint that COPFS had failed to respond timeously to a request for review.  This was Decision 1/2006 – Mr Edward Milne.  I enclose a copy for your information.

COPFS staff who have a specific responsibility for FOI and Data Protection matters meet regularly with external stakeholders, including the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner, to discuss developments in this area of legislation.  Lead Officers and other staff receive training on a regular basis and detailed guidance is available for all staff on our internal intranet.