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COPFS

Sexual offence committed by a child referred to Reporter/court – (R016623) August 2017

Thank you for your e-mail in which you requested the following information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA):

a) The guidance or protocols for Procurators Fiscal to follow when deciding whether a sexual offence committed by a child (aged under 18) is to be dealt with by an adult court or the Children’s Reporter.

b)

i) In 2015/16, the number of children aged under 16 who were charged with sexual offences?

ii) a breakdown of the charges ie how many charged with rape, sexual assault, sending sexual messages etc.

iii) the number of a) dealt with in an adult court.

iv) the number of a) dealt with by the Children’s Reporter.

c)

i) In 2015/16, the number of children aged 16-17 who were charged with sexual offences?

ii) a breakdown of the charges ie how many charged with rape, sexual assault, sending sexual messages etc.

iii) the number of a) dealt with in an adult court.

iv) the number a) dealt with by the Children’s Reporter.

Firstly in relation to your request for guidance or protocols at point a) above, I can advise of the following:

  • You may also be interested to refer to Lord Advocates Guidelines accessible on the COPFS website which contain guidance to police officers in Scotland on the categories of offence which require to be jointly reported to the Procurator Fiscal and the Children’s Reporter:

    http://www.copfs.gov.uk/images/Documents/Prosecution_Policy_Guidance/Lord_Advocates_Guidelines/Lord%20Advocates%20Guidelines%20offences%20committed%20by%20children.pdf


    COPFS has internal case marking instructions and a guidance handbook for sexual offences which are exempt from disclosure in terms of Section 35(1)(b) of FOISA.

    Section 35 does not offer an absolute exemption, rather, we must apply the public interest test. Where disclosure would be likely to prejudice substantially the prosecution of offenders that in itself shifts the public interest towards maintaining the confidentiality.

    It is considered that disclosure of this internal guidance 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 adapt their behaviour in light of the relevant thresholds in order to avoid prosecution
In relation to the data you have requested at points b) and c), it may assist if I firstly explain that COPFS uses a live operational case management system, specifically designed to receive reports from the police and other specialist reporting agencies and to manage these cases for prosecution purposes. The information held on the system is structured for these operational needs, rather than for statistical reporting or research purposes.

The data in the following table, which I hope you will find helpful, has been provided using the charges classified as sexual crimes in the Scottish Government crime classification system. You may view this list at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/09/2960/332813