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Corporate governance

Records management manual

First published

01 Jun 2017

Last updated

17 Jun 2022

Introduction and policy statement


1.1 The Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 (PRSA) places an obligation on named authorities in Scotland to produce a records management plan (RMP) which sets out their arrangements for the effective management of all public records. The Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)(named in the Schedule of PRSA as the Lord Advocate and Procurators Fiscal) is an authority defined in the Act.

Policy Statement

Function of COPFS

1.2 COPFS is Scotland’s prosecution service. We receive reports about crimes from the police and other reporting agencies and then decide what action to take, including whether to prosecute someone. We also look into deaths that need further explanation and investigate allegations of criminal conduct against police officers.

1.3 COPFS plays a pivotal part in the justice system, working with others to make Scotland safe from crime, disorder and danger. The public interest is at the heart of all we do as independent prosecutors. We take into account the diverse needs of victims, witnesses, communities and the rights of those accused of crime. We support the Strategy for Justice in Scotland and, in particular, its priorities of:

  • Reducing crime, particularly violent and serious organised crime
  • Tackling hate crime and sectarianism
  • Supporting victims and witnesses
  • Increasing public confidence and reducing fear of crime

Our values are:

  • Being professional
  • Showing respect

Our aim is to meet the Law Officers’ strategic priority of achieving operational effectiveness in all cases.

The main roles and responsibilities of COPFS are to:

  • investigate, prosecute and disrupt crime, including seizing the proceeds of crime
  • establish the cause of sudden, unexplained or suspicious deaths
  • investigate allegations of criminal conduct against police officers.

 Our Key Objectives are:

  • to secure the confidence of our diverse communities by improving the delivery of justice through the timely, efficient and effective prosecution of crime;
  • to give priority to the prosecution of serious crime, including drugs trafficking and persistent offenders;
  • to provide services that meet the information needs of victims, witnesses and next-of-kin, in co-operation with other agencies;
  • to ensure that all deaths reported to the Procurator Fiscal are investigated appropriately and speedily.

Records Management

1.4 In a records management context, COPFS expects to comply with all legislative and regulatory frameworks which apply to it. The terms of the following legislation are particularly relevant:

  • Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011
  • Data Protection Act 1998 ,
  • Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) and
  • The Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

1.5 COPFS recognises that the effective management of its records regardless of format, is essential in order to support its functions to comply with legal statutory and regulatory obligations and demonstrate transparency and accountability.

1.6 Records are a vital information asset and a valuable resource for the COPFS functions and must be managed effectively from the point of their creation until their ultimate disposal.

1.7 It is COPFS policy to maintain authentic, reliable and useable records which are capable of supporting these functions for as long as they are required.

1.8 The COPFS records management plan sets out the policies and procedures for records creation and the policies and procedures in place to manage those records properly.

1.9 COPFS has responsibility for ensuring compliance with this records management policy statement.  All staff have a responsibility to manage records effectively throughout their lifecycle, including access, tracking and storage of records; the timely review of records, whether this be for permanent preservation, or confidential destruction or recycling and, where appropriate, their ultimate disposal.

1.10 In addition, COPFS has specific Information Security Policies in place to meet COPFS’s essential IT information and network security needs.  Many of these policies are pre-requisite essentials for COPFS’ accreditation to the PSN and CJX networks.  COPFS is required to submit for re-accreditation to these schemes annually (to Cabinet Office for PSN and Home Office for CJX), which involves comprehensive independent IT network health checks, penetration tests and detailed review of technical and policy documentation.

1.11 This Policy Statement and Records Management Manual has been endorsed by the Records Management Network Group and the Executive Board.

1.12 No function of COPFS is carried out by a third party.

Responsibility for records management


2.1 The identification of a records management competency framework is a key element of the RMP. The purpose is to outline the knowledge and skills required by the COPFS records manager and other staff who have specific records management responsibilities.  By identifying core competencies, the records management staff can manage records effectively, assess training and monitor performance.  In addition, all other colleagues are in a position to understand the roles and responsibilities of the records management staff and know who to approach for advice and guidance.

Roles and responsibilities 

2.2 All COPFS staff must be aware of the policies, standards and guidance which impact on the way they manage records and information.

2.3 All staff have a responsibility to manage records effectively, through the documentation of all decisions and actions made; the effective maintenance of records throughout their lifecycle, including access, tracking and storage of records; the timely review of records and their ultimate disposal, whether this be transfer to archive for permanent preservation, confidential destruction or recycling.

Named individuals with responsibility for Records Manangement Policy (RMP)

2.4 Anthony McGeehan, PF Policy and Engagementis the senior manager who has overall strategic responsibility for the RMP. This includes responsibility for the implementation of the RMP and for the issue and authorisation of all corporate retention schedules.

2.5 Carol McDivitt, Business Manager, Response & Information Unit, is the Records Manager, with overall day-to-day responsibility for the implementation of the RMP.

2.6 The Response & Information Unit will have responsibility for:

  • issuing corporate guidance for implementing and complying with this policy
  • issuing guidance to ensure that staff are made aware of the requirement for the destruction of records to comply with obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 and Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
  • developing strategies for the permanent preservation of selected records with the National Records of Scotland
  • directing staff to the appropriate information legislation and standards

2.7 Business Function Heads, together with their Business Managers, will ensure:

  • that good records management practices as set out in this manual are considered in their business plans. 
  • that they identify staff (named individuals) within their area to implement the policy so that it is clear who is responsible for making decisions and taking necessary actions.
  • that they identify staff (named individuals) within their area to develop local policies for issues which are not covered by the corporate policies.
  • that staff have appropriate records management knowledge and skills, through training, where appropriate.
  • that the identified staff have this responsibility incorporated into their job descriptions.

2.8 As noted above, each Business area will nominate staff to take local responsibility for records management functions, most particularly with regard to the retention and destruction of records. Regular meetings will take place between the Records Manager and nominated staff to ensure that consistent practices are adopted across COPFS.

Records Manager competency framework

2.9 The Records Manager has attended a two-day professional course in Records Management practices and has a specific  requirement within the job description to attend training workshops and records management conferences at least twice a year ensure that skills and knowledge are kept up to date.

2.10 The Records Manager and other key staff with records management responsibilities require to have training in current COPFS records management best practice and have a specific objective in place in relation to records management responsibility and be able to demonstrate:

  • A good understanding of records management issues and best practice and how they relate to the organisation.
  • An ability to adapt to and support others in the development and introduction of new recordkeeping practices and procedures.
  • An ability to assess current recordkeeping systems and provide feedback to the records manager on their strengths and areas for improvement.
  • An ability to communicate effectively at all levels of the organisation.
  • An ability to recognise potential issues in relation to records management and communicate these to the relevant staff.
  • Enthusiasm and a proactive approach to improving recordkeeping practices.
  • A good understanding of the legislative environment within which they operate.
  • An ability to contribute to the development and implementation of new records management systems and solutions.
  • An understanding of how good records management can lead to improved business efficiency and working practices, as well as other organisational benefits.
  • Flexible and adaptable to change.
  • An ability to apply records management principles and practices to own work role and work of others.
  • An ability to monitor and feedback compliance with policies/procedures.
  • An understanding of different types of risk, in relation to recordkeeping.
  • An ability to work under pressure and to deadlines.
  • Accuracy and attention to detail.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • An awareness of information, advice and guidance sources within COPFS.

General principles of good records management

Creating and capturing records

3.1 To carry out its business functions, COPFS must rely on records. Records need to be created to provide a full and accurate source of evidence and information about what we do as an organisation, both for our own staff and external stakeholders. Records can include paper, electronic, e-mail and multi-media documents.

3.2 In order to comply with statutory and regulatory requirements, such as the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, it is essential that records are captured into shared recordkeeping systems so that they can be located when required.

3.3 COPFS must identify the records which need to be created and received to document business activities and ensure that they are complete, accurate and up to date.

3.4 While ownership for the creation of records will rest with Business Function Heads and their Business Managers, all staff will have varying degrees of responsibility for creating and maintaining records.

3.5 Records should be arranged in a logical filing system, so that files and documents can be quickly located and retrieved and easily identified when the time comes for review or destruction.

3.6 Adequate shared record keeping systems must be developed to ensure that documents are not stored in personal files or mailboxes, but can be located and retrieved when required.

3.7 In a records management context, an effective recordkeeping system is any means of arranging records in such a way as to reflect their business context so that retention can be easily and securely managed in a consistent manner and so that records can be easily retrieved.

3.8 Electronic records must be reviewed, archived and deleted in the same way as paper records.

3.9 Retaining records in personal systems, such as inboxes, must be avoided.  Such records are inaccessible to other users and as such are not easily retrievable as part of the corporate record. They are also less likely to be retained for the appropriate retention periods.  Therefore, where a hard copy file exists, copies of e-mails, word documents etc which require to be kept for business purposes, should be printed out and kept. Where the retained file is electronic, e-mails and other associated documents must be kept in a shared folder which can be accessed by all members of the team.

3.10 Documents which are subject to amendment as they are developed should be properly identified by version control to ensure that the latest version or master copy is easily identifiable and managed appropriately.

3.11 Unnecessary duplicate copies of records should not be created.

3.12 Sufficient information (metadata), that is, information which describes what the record is about, must be captured and associated with records to help interpret, retrieve and manage them.  Typical metadata would include, but is not restricted to, author, date, file reference and title.

Storing and maintaining records

3.13 Records should be stored in appropriate systems, locations, conditions and in equipment that is appropriate to their media, format and security.

3.14 Electronic information requires to remain accessible, readable, usable and capable of being relied upon for as long as it is required.

3.15 Access rights require to be controlled to ensure that records and record keeping systems are secure where issues of sensitivity and importance exist.

3.16 Business continuity plans must include reference to the protection and recovery of records.

3.17 Where possible, paper records should be retained in storage facilities in office premises.  Where this is not possible, it is the responsibility of the local business managers, in conjunction with Estates Division, to acquire premises which meet the above criteria.

Retaining and disposing of records

3.18 It is essential for COPFS to have retention policies to review how long records need to be kept to meet legal obligations and business needs. The retention of unnecessary paper and electronic records takes up staff time, space and equipment. It also incurs liabilities in terms of the need to service requests for information under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA). In addition, the DPA requires us to keep records for no longer than necessary and we can be sued for retaining unnecessary information if this causes damage to someone.

3.19 Records should be disposed of in line with their retention schedule.  However, staff must bear in mind that in certain circumstances it may be a criminal offence to inappropriately destroy records. You should not destroy records which are subject to a current request for information until 40 days after the request has been answered.  If you need to check whether a record is subject to a Freedom of Information request, or subject access request, please contact the Response and Information Unit.

3.20 All copies of records must be securely disposed of, with consideration given to the sensitivity and security classification.

3.21 Chapter 6 of this Manual sets out the retention periods for case-related records.  Hard copy paper records will be reviewed in Dumbarton Disposals and local offices for destruction at the appropriate times.

3.22 The Electronic Data Retention Policy compliments the paper policy.  A record will be kept of electronic case records which have been identified for destruction through the electronic data retention policy.  This will be managed through ISD.

3.23 Retention Schedules for non-case related information are attached at Annex 4.  Responsibility for authorising the disposal of these records must to be assigned to named individuals.

Storage facilities

4.1 COPFS has a storage facility for closed case papers in Dumbarton.  It houses all Sheriff and Jury and High Court  papers, for the appropriate retention periods as set out in Chapter 6 of this manual.   It also holds other categories of record from elsewhere in Scotland as specified below.

Summary cases

4.2 Summary cases are now fully electronic.  Any associated hard copy papers should be scanned into the Case Directory and papers destroyed thereafter in local offices. Summary case scanning is not carried out in Dumbarton.

Sheriff and jury cases

4.3 Sheriff and jury case papers should not be sent to the Disposals Unit until the Appeal period of 21 days has passed and PRN has been completed. Case Papers must be in the following order:

  • Minute sheet(s) placed at front of case.
  • Correspondence file place at back of case.
  • Copy signed PRN if relevant placed in correspondence file
  • Papers kept in folder.
  • Date of disposal and cull date (2, 5 10 years etc) written on front of folder
  • Papers sorted in date of disposal order.
  • All productions must be removed (Medical Records etc)
  • All ring binders removed

Please note that Dumbarton cannot accept papers which have not been reviewed and reduced. Any papers which have not been properly reviewed will not be uplifted from the  office concerned.

Deaths and FAIs

4.4 Deaths and FAI papers are retained in Dumbarton for the retention period set out in Chapter 6.  Before an FAI case leaves the office for Dumbarton, consideration must be given to whether it is likely to be of long term interest and suitable for permanent preservation at the National Records of Scotland (NRS) – see FAI section in Chapter 6.  Cases for permanent retention should be marked “FAI for permanent retention at NRS – transmit in (insert year, which should be 5 years after date of closure)”. If a decision cannot be made at that time, the papers should be clearly marked for review in 5 years’ time by the local office.  It is not anticipated that many cases will fall into the permanent retention category.

High Court papers

4.5 High Court papers which have not yet been closed for 10 years are retained in Dumbarton.

4.6 AD High Court papers, which are between 2 and 10 years old are also retained in Dumbarton. The most recent two years (current year + 1) are retained on Crown Office premises.

4.7 It has been the practice for AD High Court papers to be retained permanently at NRS and files are transmitted once they are 10 years old. Papers which are subject to appeal will be retained on COPFS premises for a longer period, determined by the appeal process.  However, it has been recognised that there is valuable information on the PF High Court file which is not duplicated on the AD file.  Therefore, the following information from the PF High Court file must be retained:

  1.  Minute sheets
  2.  Petition
  3.  Custody Statements
  4.  SPR
  5.  Correspondence file
  6.  Disclosure File
  7. Any other relevant material which is not contained within the Crown Office papers.  The Precognition Officer/Depute who was involved in the case preparation should advise if any other documents are worthy of retention.
  8. Office copy precognition and productions
  9. All original productions removed and returned to source
  10. All ring binders removed

Please note that Dumbarton cannot accept papers which have not been reviewed and reduced. Any papers which have not been properly reviewed will not be uplifted from the office concerned.

4.8 NRS require the case papers to be sent in a folder and accompanied by an index. 

Other Crown Office records in Dumbarton

4.9 In addition, the Dumbarton facility also holds the following Crown Office records:

  • Civil Recovery Unit files – marked with the date of destruction
  • International Co-Operation Unit files – marked with the date of destruction
  • Serious Organised Crime Division files – marked with the date of destruction

Access to case papers from Dumbarton

4.10 If you require access to case papers that cannot be viewed/printed from the case directory in SOS-R you should complete a Retrieval of Papers request detailing the documents you require and e-mail it to the Disposal Unit Mailbox (Disposals)

4.11 The required documents will be scanned into the case directory in SOS-R where they can be accessed on line. It should only be in exceptional circumstances (or where an appeal is lodged out of time or referred back out of time by the SCCRC) that hard copy papers are returned to the office.

4.12 Where hard copy papers are required, they will be sent by tracked DX Mail or delivered by Disposals Unit staff.

4.13 Non-case papers will also generally be scanned back and only in exceptional circumstances will they be returned hard copy.

4.14 Finance Division and Human Resources records are subject to records retention periods which are set out in the Records Retention Schedules in Chapter 7.

Managing email

8.1 Email is a tool for written communication and has largely replaced the traditional paper correspondence or telephone call as the most used form of communication within COPFS. Emails need to be managed just like any other records we create.

8.2 All staff who create, receive and use records (including emails) have records
management responsibilities. These can be summarised as a responsibility to create
appropriate records, to capture important emails within your own area of work and record keeping system and to destroy those emails which are no longer needed.

8.3 Emails are legally admissible and may be disclosed under legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) or in a court of law. The DPA permits people to see emails that COPFS holds about them while FOISA gives people the right to access any other recorded information which we hold, including emails. The DPA also requires us to hold information about living identifiable individuals for no longer than is necessary, to ensure that information is accurate and to adopt appropriate security measures for this information to protect it from unauthorised access, amendment or deletion.

8.4 Before you send emails you should consider whether the content is accurate and
appropriate. It is advisable to work on the assumption that all work emails you create
could be accessible to somebody and may require to be released under the DPA or

8.5 The keeping of electronic records, including emails, incurs large storage and maintenance costs. As a result of this, ISD have advised that all mail older than 8 weeks contained in individual ‘Sent Items’ folders will be automatically deleted when Outlook is closed. Staff are therefore required to manage their mailboxes in such a way as to avoid important information being lost.

8.6 You should actively manage your inbox by disposing of emails as soon as they are no longer needed but you must ensure that emails which are required for business purposes are consistently captured and managed in a shared record keeping folder outside of personal inboxes. This enables other staff to access information for business continuity purposes or answer a request for information within the statutory timescales in your absence. If copying/moving emails that are over 60 days old to other mailboxes or shared drives, staff need to ensure that the full (unarchived) version is copied and not the archived shortcut. Advice on working with archived messages can be found on Connect.

8.7 It is important that all information in relation to a particular topic is retained in the
one place which is easily accessible. It is difficult, hugely costly and time-consuming to
retrieve e-mails which have been stored in personal folders, on laptops, discs or even
home computers.

8.8 Emails are not private or confidential and can be illegally intercepted. It is the responsibility of all members of staff to consider the appropriateness of using e-mail to
discuss sensitive subjects. Staff must not exchange case-related information by e-mail
unless through the Criminal Justice Secure Mail System Further information on Information Security is contained in Chapter 9 of this manual.

8.9 At the start of the email, explain whether it is for information or action and ensure that its purpose and content are clearly explained. This helps receivers to identify, prioritise and retrieve e-mails more effectively. Make it easy to respond to your message by clearly identifying (eg by numbering) your questions/requests.

8.10 Try to restrict an email to one topic, and do not mix personal and work matters together.

8.11 When sending an attachment with the email to an external stakeholder or member
of the public, you should normally send a pdf version, rather than a word document so that there is no risk of it being altered on receipt.

8.12 Before staff transfer to another post or leave COPFS they should discuss their email management with their line manager to ensure that all relevant emails are captured in an appropriate shared electronic/paper folder which will be easily accessible by the remaining members of staff in the team/office.

Managing emails - Do's and Don'ts

  • Remember that all work emails are COPFS records
  • Exercise the same degree of care and professionalism with regard to the content of email messages as you would with a letter or memo
  • Set an out of office message giving alternative contact details when you are
    away, or arrange for someone else to check your email
  • File important emails so that they are accessible to other people on a common
  • Delete unwanted emails as soon as they are no longer required
  • Send pdf attachments rather than Word documents to external contacts
  • Make use of expiry date and properties options
  • Use short meaningful titles/subjects for your emails
  • When replying to an email, keep the original text as part of your response
  • Remember that email is not a secure form of communication and use secure
    email for sensitive communication
  • Remember that all your emails may be open to scrutiny
  • Keep the only copy of important emails in your in and sent items boxes
  • Allow backlogs of unwanted emails to accumulate in your account
  • Copy emails to people unless they need to see them
  • Mix personal and work emails
  • Address more than one topic in one email
  • Annotate or change the text of the original -mail when replying to it
  • Use a non-COPFS email account for COPFS business
  • Use symbols in the subject line of emails
  • Use your Deleted Items and Sent Items folders to store items you want to keep
  • Have a large number of unread items in your mailbox as these will not be
    archived. Archiving reduces the space used by your mailbox

NB: Staff must ensure that they also adhere to the Acceptable Computer Use

Security considerations

9.1 The management of the security of information and records is essential to protect
the information assets of COPFS and criminal justice partners and stakeholders. We must ensure business continuity, minimise risk and protect the rights of individuals about whom we hold information.

9.2 Staff should be aware of potential risks that exist in what may be perceived as a
secure internal environment, particularly where sensitive business and personal information is used and stored.

9.3 It is essential to ensure the authenticity, confidentiality, context, integrity, reliability, structure and usability of records and information held in all media and formats.

9.4 COPFS must ensure that records are easy to retrieve, protected from deterioration/damage and unauthorised access.

9.5 Consideration must be given to storage of paper records to ensure that they are not subject to theft, unauthorised access, or accidental damage from fire or water, vermin or mould.

9.6 Staff and local managers should have regard to the following issues:

  • Security measures are put in place to restrict access by unauthorised persons
    including regulating who is permitted access to records and record storage areas and in what circumstances
  • Paper records are stored in appropriately secure lockable filing equipment and
    storage facilities to which access is controlled
  • Staff should pay particular attention to the Departmental Security Guidance and
    the Acceptable Computer Use Policy
  • Staff should never tell anyone their password. It should not be written down and left for others to see
  • If staff log on accidentally to an inappropriate internet site, they should log off immediately and inform their line manager as soon as possible. Access and
    attempted access to inappropriate sites is continually monitored
  • Staff should never send inappropriate email. If anything inappropriate or
    offensive is received, staff should inform their line manager, Help Desk or
    Departmental Security Officer
  • Computer screens should not be left as readable when staff are absent from their
    desk or work area. Use the CTRL+ALT+DEL keys and then select the option to Lock Computer
  • Computer users should log out when absent from their desks for lengthy periods
  • Staff must be aware of the security risks associated with capturing electronic
    documents from other systems into COPFS systems
  • Staff must be aware of security risks to records and equipment whilst working in
    public areas and when working at home, or away from the office
  • Sensitive documents/papers should never be taken out without authorisation.
    Details should be logged including who has taken the documents and the
    reasons for removal and for how long

9.7 Security Guidance is available to staff on PF Eye under the Staff Information section and provides valuable advice. Sections which are particularly relevant to the issue of records management are highlighted below.

9.8 The COPFS Information Security Policy of COPFS serves to ensure that;

  • Information will be protected against unauthorised access;
  • Confidentiality of information will be assured;
  • Integrity of information will be maintained;
  • Information will be available to authorised personnel as and when required;
  • Regulatory and legislative requirements will be met;
  • Business Continuity Plans will be produced, maintained and tested;
  • Information security training will be available to all staff;

All breaches of information security, actual or suspected, will be reported to and
investigated by the Departmental Security Officer.

9.9 It is important that all staff understand the principles of Document Security and exercise care in handling and protecting the  confidentiality of sensitive material that comes into their possession in the course of their duties.

9.10 Sensitive documents, files, electronic material etc should be given a classification (or marking) to indicate its importance and how it should be handled. These markings are often seen on the top of documents. These markings are known as the Government Security Classifications and COPFS is required to comply with requirements.

9.11 We are currently operating with the old classifications of Not Protected, Protect, Restricted, Confidential, Secret and Top Secret in line with the Police but will move to the new classifications of Official, Official – Sensitive Secret and Top Secret as soon as practical.

9.12 Access to electronic cases which are particularly sensitive or have distressing content and associated documents are restricted to nominated members of staff only.
This is done to protect the confidentiality of information in the relevant cases and protect
members of staff from exposure to distressing details.

9.13 COPFS operates a clear desk policy. Staff should clear desks of case related and other sensitive material before going home or when away from their desks for long periods during the day.

9.14 Hard copy files containing case related and other sensitive material must be locked away at all times when not in use. The information contained within them must be protected at all times from unauthorised access and from the possibility of deliberate compromise or opportunist attack. When destruction of such records is required, it must
be in a manner which makes reconstruction unlikely.

9.15 “Restricted” papers must be stored in normal, lockable containers. However, special security cabinets can be provided to staff who hold Confidential, Secret and Top Secret material. Further information is available from the Departmental Security Officer.

9.16 Staff must ensure that protectively marked material, security keys as well as
valuable portable assets are securely stored. Failure to do so constitutes a security breach. Security staff can carry out random ‘out of hours’ checks.

Exchanging Information

9.17 Staff must be aware of the need to protect the exchange of information through the use of computers, telephones, mobile phones, answer machines, faxes, video
communications etc. Exchange of case-related information by e-mail must be through the Criminal Justice Secure Mail or through the Secure Disclosure Website.

9.18 Staff should not store personal or restricted data on the C drive of their laptop
unless it is stored in the encrypted ‘Offline Files’ working area, nor should they store
personal or restricted data on any unencrypted removable media.

9.19 It is the responsibility of staff entrusted with valuable portable equipment, such as
laptops, TVs, videos, mobile telephones, Blackberry devices etc to ensure that they
follow the advice provided on security procedures to help protect the equipment from

9.20 You should ensure that the laptop is locked down when not in use. You should not carry all the components together in the same bag. Similarly the PIN number should be kept secure and never divulged to anyone.

9.21 Line managers also have an essential role to play in ensuring that security procedures are followed and COPFS assets under their control are adequately protected. Particular attention should be drawn to the need to hold the relevant details, such as make, model and serial number of all their portable valuable equipment, which in the event of theft or loss are required for inclusion in the necessary report to the police.

Further guidance can be found in the Security Manual


National Records of Scotland


10.1 The National Records of Scotland (NRS) is the main repository for the public and legal records of Scotland which have been identified as being worthy of permanent preservation. It also advises the Scottish Government, amongst others, on the care of their records. COPFS files which are chosen for preservation on the basis that they are of historical interest, based on criteria set out by NRS are transferred to NRS’s custody and held there on our behalf. Criminal case files and Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) papers are transferred after a period of ten years from the date of the last action on file. Selected administrative files are also transferred, sometimes at an earlier stage.

10.2 The main points of contact for NRS are through the Response and Information Unit, Policy Division, Crown Office, High Court Registry, Crown Office and through Dumbarton Disposals. These Units are in regular discussion about case paper policy and transfer of case-related and policy files.

Requirements under Freedom of Information and Data Protection Legislation

10.3 Since January 2005, under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), individuals have a greater right of access to information held by public authorities. The legislation states that “a person who requests information from a Scottish public authority which holds it is entitled to be given it by the authority”. This means that even restricted information which is held at NRS on behalf of COPFS can now be made available to the public, subject to the application of any appropriate
exemptions which may necessarily restrict access.

10.4 The general rule is now that records transferred to NRS should be considered open unless specific exemptions are applied.

10.5 COPFS files, which relate to criminal prosecutions, sudden deaths and fatal accident inquiries, often contain material which is of a sensitive, confidential and, at times, distressing nature. Therefore it is appropriate for COPFS papers not to be readily available in the public domain as soon as they are transferred to NRS. This protects the individuals whose personal details are contained in the papers as well as members of the public.

10.6 COPFS papers held by NRS remain restricted, as certain exemptions under the
legislation attract a longer closure period. For example, the Act exempts for a period of 100 years the release of a deceased person’s health record, or papers held by a public authority in relation to an investigation by virtue of a duty to ascertain the cause of death of a person. In some cases, the Data Protection Act 1998 also applies, restricting access to particular types of information about living individuals.

10.7 It has therefore been agreed that when NRS receive a request to review COPFS case files which are less than 100 years old, the requestor will be referred to the Response and Information Unit, Policy Division in the first instance so that a review can be carried out to see what information might be released and considered “open” for subsequent viewers.

10.8 It should be noted that the trend is increasingly towards closing records containing sensitive personal data for 100 years, rather than for 75 years, which was previously more generally the case. This is largely to do with (a) lengthening lifespans, which make it increasingly likely that an adult could still be alive 75 years after the date of a case and (b) there is a very good chance that anyone who was a child at the time of a case will still be alive 75 years later. Each case must be considered on its own merits, however, and there could be some circumstances where it may be appropriate to open a deceased person’s health record before 100 years has passed.

Special Handling Procedure

10.9 Records will only be retransmitted by NRS to three units within Crown Office:

  • Response and Information Unit, Policy Division,
  • High Court Registry and
  • Appeals Unit administrative staff

10.10 These units will log the receipt of the archived files and take responsibility for
ensuring that they are returned timeously when they are no longer required.

10.11 When records are re-transmitted from NRS, either for review as set out above, or
for some other business purpose, such as the commencement of an appeal, special handling procedures apply.

10.12 Handling archive material affects its life expectancy. All archive material which is
temporarily retransmitted for business purposes must be handled with special care to
ensure its survival for future generations.

10.13 A note from NRS will accompany any retransmitted file setting out the appropriate handling procedures and this must be observed by staff. In essence it states:

  • Make sure that your hands are clean
  • Use only pencil when taking notes from the files
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke near the files
  • Use only acid free bookmarks (provided). Do not use post-it notes as markers
  • Do not remove documents from a bundle or file
  • Do not add documents to a bundle or file (see COPFS desk instructions for how
    to deal with additional papers relating to an archive file)
  • Do not mark the documents in any way. Never employ correction fluid on an
    original document*
  • Be careful and vigilant when making photocopies from documents, especially when these are in files. Rough handling can cause documents to become loose and may lead to them becoming lost or misplaced
  • Ensure that files are properly stored in a secure and risk free environment (eg not
    near sources of water or extreme temperature)
  • Return this file to NRS as soon as you have finished with it

*NB: where data protection requires a redaction exercise to protect individuals named in a file which is to be made available for inspection, a photocopy must be used for this
purpose. The original document must not be marked or changed in any way.

New records for association with archive file

10.14 In particular, staff must not add any new papers to the archive file. In appropriate
circumstances, Response and Information Unit, Registry or Appeals in Crown Office will supply staff with an appropriate folder and instructions for the filing of new papers.

Annex 1: Guidance on weeding cases

Guidance on what requires to be kept when cases are weeded and in what order

Summary cases:

  1. Court minutes
  2. Copy complaint
  3. Custody statements (applicable)
  4. SPR
  5. Witness statements (original)
  6. Witness statements (redacted)
  7. Minute of Agreements
  8. Bail appeal report (if applicable)
  9. Correspondence file (most recent correspondence on top)

Sheriff & Jury cases:

  1. Precognition backing sheet which includes minutes
  2. Precognition
  3. Minute sheets
  4. Section 76 Indictment (if applicable
  5. Indictment (if more than one version then one of each)
  6. Section 67 notices
  7. Copy of execution 67 notice
  8. Petition
  9. Custody statements
  10. SPR
  11. Witness statements (original)
  12. Witness statements (redacted/disclosure)
  13. Crown Counsel’s instruction
  14. Section 76 report (if applicable)
  15. Minutes of agreement
  16. Bail Appeal report (if applicable)
  17. Transcripts of Judicial Examination (if applicable)
  18. Transcripts of Police interview tape (if applicable)
  19. Copy Documentary productions
  20. Copy of any photographs
  21. Copy of any medical records
  22. Correspondence file (most recent correspondence on top)

High Court cases:

  1. Precognition backing sheet which includes minutes
  2. Precognition
  3. Minute sheets
  4. AD notes
  5. Section 76 Indictment (if applicable
  6. Indictment (original and amended version(s))
  7. Section 67 notices
  8. Copy of execution 67 notice
  9. Petition
  10. Custody statements
  11. SPR
  12. Witness statements (original)
  13. Witness statements (redacted/disclosure)
  14. Crown Counsel’s instruction
  15. Section 76 report (if applicable)
  16. Minutes of agreement
  17. Bail Appeal report (if applicable)
  18. Transcripts of Judicial Examination (applicable)
  19. Transcripts of Police interview tape (applicable)
  20. Copy Documentary productions
  21. Copy of any photographs
  22. Copy of any medical records
  23. Correspondence file (most recent correspondence on top)

Routine death cases:

  1. Minute backing sheet
  2. F5 Notification of Death
  3. Police/Death report
  4. Notification to Registrar
  5. Correspondence File (most recent correspondence on top)

Investigated death cases:

  1. Minute backing sheet
  2. F5 Notification of Death
  3. Police/Death report
  4. Post Mortem report
  5. Toxicology report (if applicable)
  6. Histology report (if applicable)
  7. Witness statements (original)
  8. Witness statements (redacted/disclosed) (if applicable)
  9. Precognition (if applicable)
  10. F11 Petition for FAI (if applicable)
  11. Books of photographs
  12. Copy of documentary productions
  13. Correspondence file (most recent correspondence on top)

Complaints Against Police cases (No Proceedings):

  1. Police report
  2. Witness statements (original)
  3. Correspondence file

Complaints Against Police cases (Summary Proceedings):

  1. Court minutes
  2. Copy complaint
  3. Police report
  4. Witness statements (original)
  5. Witness statements (redacted)
  6. Minute of Agreements
  7. Correspondence file (most recent correspondence on top)

Complaints Against Police cases (Solemn Proceedings):

  1. Precognition backing sheet which includes minutes
  2. Precognition
  3. Minute sheets
  4. Section 76 Indictment (if applicable
  5. Indictment (if more than one version then one of each)
  6. Section 67 notices
  7. Copy of execution 67 notice
  8. Petition
  9. Police report
  10. Witness statements (original)
  11. Witness statements (redacted/disclosure)
  12. Crown Counsel’s instruction
  13. Section 76 report (if applicable)
  14. Minutes of agreement
  15. Transcripts of Judicial Examination (applicable)
  16. Transcripts of Police interview tape (applicable)
  17. Copy Documentary productions
  18. Copy of any photographs
  19. Copy of any medical records
  20. Correspondence file (most recent correspondence on top)

Annex 3: Information about electronic systems


PROMIS is the COPFS database. It contains information about subjects reported by the
police and other agencies. These reports may have been received electronically from the police or come in hard copy e.g. TV licensing offence reports.

Any hard copy reports have to be manually put on to the PROMIS database. PROMIS contains criminal cases, deaths and occurrence reports etc. The PROMIS database contains information about the subject, such as, in a criminal case, the subject name and address, the charges, witnesses details, and a list of all cases reported against the subject, i.e. the soundex.

PROMIS interfaces with a number of other systems. These IT systems are external to

POLIN – Electronic documents

This is the data transfer line or “link” between the COPFS database and the police (and
any other reporting Agency which comes on line). It allows the police to send their
reports electronically and for COPFS to communicate with the police by sending and
receiving e-mailed documents created on our PROMIS database.


The PROMIS database interfaces with both the Sheriff Clerk’s and some District Court Clerk’s computer databases. The Sheriff Clerk’s database is called COP. The “link” between the COPFS and the Clerks is called COPLINK. PROMIS sends initial court appearances to the Clerk via COPLINK. Once the case has called in court the Clerk will update their COP database and will send the court results back to COPFS PROMIS database using COPLINK.


SOS-R is the forerunner to FOS and is a computer software package. It pulls information from PROMIS and puts that information into templates/style letters. For example, a citation kit is a template that pulls details about the accused, the charges, the
marking and court appearance and puts them into the citation kit.

Anything that is not processed in FOS can be located on SOS-R, as well as some cases that are processed using FOS. The data can be viewed in two ways:

  • By looking on the intranet under Quick Links for SOS – Area ** and choosing
    Document Maintenance. This will show the criminal cases and any further
    documents received from the police (eg full statements) and letters created by
  • To you can also access the case information by accessing the PROMIS icon on the desktop, where you can view what has happened to a case which is not
    processed using FOS.


The Future Office System (FOS) is the current software that provides COPFS with an easier way of displaying and changing information we store in our database i.e. accused (subject), witness, charge information etc. It also allows us to produce case documents in an easier way and introduces the concept of on-line case marking.

Full information about using the above systems is available in the Case Processing

Annex 4: Glossary

Access – right, opportunity means of finding, using or retrieving information.

Accountability – principle that individuals, organisations and the community are responsible for their actions and may be required to explain them to others.

Business Classification Scheme – is based on the analysis of functions, processes and activities. It documents the structure of a records management system and the relationships between records and the activities that generate them. It provides an essential basis for the intellectual control of records and facilitates their management and use over time. A business classification scheme can be used to ensure that all records are stored consistently, regardless of their format and also underpins an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS)

Capture – refers to the actions that are taken to secure a record into an effective records management system, where the record can be maintained and made accessible for as long as it is needed.

Classification – systematic identification and arrangement of business activities and/or
records into categories according to logically structured conventions, methods, and
procedural rules represented in a Business Classification Scheme

Context – a record must be supported by information about the circumstances in which
it was created and used. Records cannot be fully understood without adequate knowledge of the activity that gave rise to them, the wider function of which the activity forms part, and administrative context, including the identities and roles of the various participants in the activity. Contextual information must therefore be captured in the records themselves or in the systems that are used to maintain them.

Creation – refers to the creation of a record in a business activity.

Destruction – a process of eliminating or deleting, beyond a possible reconstruction.

Document – recorded information or object which can be treated as a unit.

Disposition – range of processes associated with implementing records retention, destruction or transfer decisions.

EDRMS – electronic document and records management system – a dedicated system
for capturing records. It supports the capture, registration, storage and indexing, ownership and access rights, retrieval, checkout and return of documents and records.

Evidential value – the usefulness of records as the primary or legal evidence of an
organisation’s authority, functions, operations, transactions and basic decisions and procedures.

File list – list of files and their titles.

Filing – the process of sorting and arranging, classification or categorizing, and storing
records so that they may be retrieved when needed.

Functions – things an organisation has to do to achieve its corporate goals and strategies.

Metadata – data describing context, content and structure of records and their management through time.

Migration – act of moving records from one system to another, with maintaining the
records authenticity, integrity, reliability and usability.

Preservation – processes and operations involved in ensuring the technical and
intellectual survival of authentic records through time.

Record – any recorded evidence of an activity.
Recordkeeping system – information system which captures, manages and provides access to records through time.

Records management – field of management responsible for the efficient systematic
control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including
processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business
activities and transactions in the form of records.

Records series – a group of related records or documents that are normally used and filed as a unit because they result from the same activity or function or have some relationship arising from their creation, receipt etc, and that permit evaluation as a unit for retention scheduling purposes.

Retention period – the length of time particular records must be kept. This is usually
expressed in terms of years or months

Retention schedule – documents how long records are retained for, how and where they should be stored and what action needs to be taken once the record reaches its retention date.

Retrieval – the process of locating and withdrawing records and delivering them for use.

Tracking – creating, capturing and maintaining information about the movement and
use of records.

Transfer – (custody) change of custody, ownership and/or responsibilities for records.

Transfer - (movement) moving records from one location to another.

Version control – the management of multiple revisions to the same document. Version control enables us to tell one version of a document from another.