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COPFS

Reports to COPFS involving solicitors

Freedom of information: Reports to COPFS involving solicitors

16 October 2013

Thank you for your e-mail of 18 September 2013 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) in which you seek the following information –

"I am requesting the following information, and would like the information for each item provided for the last ten years until present, broken down by year.

1. How many reports have been sent by Procurator Fiscals to the Crown Office where the accused is a solicitor? How many were marked as no further action and how many were prosecuted?

2. Of these reports how many involved allegations of i) fraud, embezzlement or theft ii) dishonesty iii) violence iv) drugs offences v) sexual offences? And what were the outcomes of these?

3. How many reports has COPFS received from the Scottish Legal Aid Board regarding allegations involving i) solicitors and ii) members of the public?

4. How many reports has COPFS received from the Law Society of Scotland regarding allegations involving solicitors?

5. How many reports has COPFS received from the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal regarding allegations involving solicitors?

6. How many reports were handled by COPFS in relation to legal aid fraud. How many of these reports included allegations of legal aid fraud by solicitors?

7. How many legal aid fraud cases were prosecuted? How many of these were solicitors? What were the outcomes of the cases involving solicitors?"

It may assist to explain that 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.

1. The COPFS electronic case management system does not record an accused person's occupation. It is therefore not possible to provide the information that you have requested by searching our electronic system. It has, however, been possible to manually search hard copy case files, regarding reports received relating to solicitors, which are held by Crown Office from as far back as 2007. These files are held in accordance with the requirement for Procurators Fiscal to report certain categories of case, as set out in the published COPFS Book of Regulations. Hard copy files are not held for such cases before 2007 in accordance with the COPFS Records Management Policy which is published on the COPFS website. I have attached a link to the relevant part of our website for your convenience.

Based on what is currently held by Crown Office, the information you have requested is annexed in Table 1.

2. The first part of the information you have requested is annexed in Table 2. For the purposes of your request the only offence, other than fraud, embezzlement or theft that has been described as an offence of dishonesty is reset.

The information that you have requested in relation to the outcome of the reports received relating to these specific offences has not been provided as I am of the view that due to the small number of such allegations, there is a substantial risk that the release of the the information you have requested would enable these individuals to be identified. I therefore consider that the exemption under section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to the information requested. This exemption applies because the information is personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. This is an absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest.

While the specific information that you have requested cannot be provided, the outcome of all of the reports received by COPFS in relation to solicitors is contained within Table 1.

3. We have only been able to provide the information sought from 2009. This is due to the way in which records for such cases were recorded before this date.

We have carried out a search of our records since 2009 up until the end of September 2013. This information is annexed in Table 3. I can advise you that two of the reports received in 2012 related to solicitors. All of the other reports received since 2009 relate to members of the public.

4. When you spoke to my colleague, you clarified that you were interested in receiving information about reports of criminal allegations. COPFS have not received any reports from the Law Society of Scotland containing criminal allegations involving solicitors.

Ordinarily, where a referral from the Law Society of Scotland merited further investigation, the matter would be passed by the Law Society to the police to investigate and, if appropriate the police would then submit a report to the Procurator Fiscal.

5. The Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal is not a reporting agency and accordingly COPFS have therefore not received any reports from them.

6. All of the reports submitted to COPFS by the Scottish Legal Aid Board related to allegations of Legal Aid fraud. The information you have requested is contained in Table 3.

7. The information you have requested, regarding how many of the reports received by COPFS in relation to allegations of Legal Aid fraud resulted in a prosecution, is annexed in Table 3.

With regard to the outcome of the two reports received relating to solicitors, I am of the view that due to the small number of individuals that this information relates to, there is a substantial risk that the release of the the information you have requested would enable these individuals to be identified. I therefore consider that the exemption under section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to the information requested. This exemption applies because the information is personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. This is an absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest.

Table 1 – Outcome of reports received by Crown Office where the accused is a solicitor

Year

Not Marked / Ongoing Investigations

No Action

Direct Measures

Court Proceedings

Total

2007

0

0

0

6

6

2008

0

1

3

9

13

2009

0

2

3

13

18

2010

0

2

2

6

10

2011

0

1

2

11

14

2012

1

2

3

13

19

2013

1

1

1

2

5

 

Table 2 – Alleged Offences

Year

Fraud / Embezzlement / Theft

Other offences of dishonesty

Violence

Drugs Offences

Sexual Offences

2007

0

0

0

0

0

2008

2

0

0

0

0

2009

2

0

5

1

1

2010

2

0

2

1

0

2011

3

0

3

1

0

2012

1

0

1

2

2

2013

0

0

1

0

0

 

Table 3 – Outcomes of reports received by COPFS from SLAB 

Year

Still under consideration / Ongoing Investigations

No Action

Direct Measures

Court Proceedings

Total

2009

2

20

3

2

27

2010

2

11

4

7

24

2011

16

9

0

3

28

2012

5

0

2

1

8

2013

11

1

0

0

12