The term whistleblowing is used when an individual provides information in relation to a wrongdoing; this will usually be something that is witnessed at work. This is known as making a disclosure. The person who makes the disclosure is known as a whistle-blower.
If a worker brings information about a wrongdoing to the attention of their employers or a relevant organisation, they are protected in certain circumstances under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
In order to be protected by whistleblowing law the disclosure must be “qualifying”. This means that the worker must have reasonable belief that making the disclosure is in the public interest. In addition to that, there must also be reasonable belief that the disclosure tends to show past, present or likely future wrongdoing in one of the following categories:
- Criminal offences
- Failure to comply with an obligation set out in law
- Miscarriages of justice
- Endangering of someone’s health and safety
- Damage to the environment
- Or concealing wrongdoings in the above categories
The Lord Advocate is a prescribed person in terms of The Prescribed Persons (Reports on Disclosures of Information) Regulations 2017 for the purpose of whistleblowing regarding serious or complex fraud in Scotland. In Scotland the Specialist Casework section of COPFS (Scotland’s prosecution service) will investigate matters on behalf of the Lord Advocate.
A prescribed person is an individual or organisation that a worker may approach outside their workplace to report suspected or known wrongdoing. The role of a prescribed person is to provide workers with a mechanism to make their public interest disclosure to an independent body where the worker does not feel able to disclose directly to their employer and the body is in a position to take further action on said disclosure.
A. Individuals can report a case of serious or complex fraud either by writing, telephoning or emailing COPFS. It is worth noting that fraud is not just limited to money but can also be non-financial, the most obvious being misuse of confidential data.
A. The relevant contact details are:
Procurator Fiscal Specialist Casework
25 Chambers Street
Tel: 0300 020 0457
A. As much detail as possible would be helpful. A whistle-blower will be required to at least give the following information:
- The nature of the offence and a background of the circumstances
- Details of the suspect
- The whistle-blower’s details if they chose not to report anonymously
A. Yes, anonymous reports are accepted. However, this may make it more difficult for the whistle-blower to receive legal protection as there would likely be no evidence to link any detriment they may experience as a result of the disclosure of information to the prescribed person. It will also make it difficult to ask any follow-up questions.
A. Where it is found there are grounds to believe that an offence has been committed, COPFS will instruct a police investigation.
A. If a whistle-blower has given their details when making a report they may be asked to provide a statement if a police investigation is instructed by COPFS.
Candidates Guidance and information on Competency Based Selection can be found on the Application Process tab at the top of this page.
Alison Di Rollo QC was appointed Solicitor General in June 2016.
The Solicitor General is one of the two Scottish Law Officers, and deputy to the Lord Advocate.
Alison Di Rollo joined COPFS in 1985 and went on to perform a wide range of duties in local Procurator Fiscal’s offices and in Crown Office. In 2008 Alison gained rights of audience in the High Court of Justiciary and was seconded to take up appointment as an Advocate Depute. She became head of the National Sexual Crimes Unit in January 2013, and from January 2015, until her appointment as Solicitor General, she was a Senior Advocate Depute.
David Harvie is a Solicitor Advocate and joined the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, following a spell in private practice, in 1996. He worked as a Procurator Fiscal Depute in Paisley until 1999, when he was seconded to the Lockerbie criminal trial team until after the trial, when, after a brief spell in Policy, he was promoted to Principal Depute, Aberdeen.
In 2001 he was seconded to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
He returned to Crown Office in 2004, where he became Deputy, then Head of the National Casework Division with responsibility for Organised Crime, Financial Crime and Proceeds of Crime cases throughout Scotland.
In 2008, David was promoted to District Procurator Fiscal, Edinburgh and East Lothian.
In August 2010 he was appointed as Area Procurator Fiscal for Central.
In May 2011, David was appointed Interim Head of East Federation.
He was promoted to Director of Serious Casework and Procurator Fiscal North of Scotland in July 2011. He took up his previous post as Procurator Fiscal for the West of Scotland in April 2014.
He was promoted to Crown Agent on 4 April 2016.
James Wolffe QC was appointed Lord Advocate in June 2016.
The Lord Advocate is the senior Scottish Law Officer. He or she is head of the systems for the prosecution of crime and investigation of deaths in Scotland; and exercises those functions independently of any other person. All prosecutions on indictment run in the Lord Advocate’s name. The Lord Advocate also has a number of statutory functions, including in relation to extradition and mutual legal assistance with other jurisdictions.
James Wolffe became an advocate in 1992. He was First Standing Junior Counsel to the Scottish Ministers from 2002 to 2007; and became a Queen’s Counsel in that year. From 2007 to 2010 he served as an Advocate Depute. From 2014 to 2016 he was Dean of the Faculty of Advocates.
Tackling Transnational Crime: A Scottish Perspective, 29 January 2018
In some less serious cases, although the Procurator Fiscal may consider that it is in the public interest to take action, prosecution may not be the most appropriate course of action. In those cases there are a number of direct measures available.
As a direct measure, offenders may be:
- given a warning by the Procurator Fiscal
- given the option of paying a fine
- given the option of paying compensation
- given the option of a Fiscal Work Offer
- offered the chance of referral for specialist support or treatment (diversion).
This way, the accused does not have a criminal conviction recorded against their name, members of the public are spared the inconvenience of attending as witnesses, and courts are freed up to spend time dealing with more serious cases.
The Procurator Fiscal may decide to give the accused either a written or personal warning. Once this happens, the accused cannot be prosecuted for that offence.
The 'fixed penalty conditional offer' (fine) is an effective direct measure for less serious offences. The levels of fine are set by the Scottish Government and are currently £50, £125, £175, £250, £325, £400 and £500. This fine will be registered against the accused (and there will be no court proceedings) unless he or she gives notice that he or she refuses the offer. If challenged, the Procurator Fiscal may prosecute for the offence.
The 'compensation offer' is an effective direct measure for offences where an individual has suffered loss. Compensation may be issued in respect of monetary loss, personal loss, or alarm or distress. The maximum level of compensation that can be offered is £3,000. The level of compensation will be registered against the accused as a fine (and there would be no court proceedings) unless he or she gives notice that he or she refuses the offer. If challenged, the Procurator Fiscal may prosecute for the offence.
If, following rejection of a fixed penalty offer or compensation offer, a prosecution follows, the accused's failure to take up the offer, and its amount may be disclosed to the Court.Fixed penalty and compensation offers are not criminal convictions. However, they are recorded and can be disclosed to the court for any offence which occurs within a period of two years from the date of acceptance. Where a fixed penalty offer or compensation offer has not been rejected the Procurator Fiscal, if asked, may disclose this to any person whom he considers to have a legitimate interest in knowing the outcome of the case, for example, the victim or the media.
A Fiscal Work Offer (FWO) is a direct measure which allows the prosecutor to offer an offender the opportunity of completing a Fiscal Work Order of between 10-50 hours of unpaid work.
If the offer is rejected or the work order is not completed satisfactorily then the Procurator Fiscal may prosecute for the offence.
Fixed penalties are also offered as an alternative to prosecution for some less serious road traffic offences. In contrast to non road traffic fixed penalty offers and compensation offers, road traffic fixed penalties are only registered when they are actively accepted by the accused. If the offer is accepted and payment made, no prosecution is brought. If it is an endorsable offence penalty points are also endorsed on the accused's driving licence. Where the accused does not actively accept the fixed penalty, the Procurator Fiscal can bring the case to court as a normal prosecution.
This is called 'diversion' and involves offering the individual the option of referral to a scheme, which might involve social work, or psychiatric or psychologist support, treatment or other action. This is used where the individual has an identifiable need and diversion would be the most appropriate outcome in the circumstances.. The individual can decide not to accept the referral and the Procurator Fiscal may then prosecute the case.
In less serious cases where there is an identifiable victim, a conflict between two parties, or where the offender is able to make amends for his conduct, 'reparation and mediation' can be an effective alternative, in those areas where there is a scheme available. The accused can choose not to accept the reparation and mediation in which case the Procurator Fiscal may prosecute the case in the normal way.
Over 50 specialist reporting agencies
, other than the Police, report cases to the Procurator Fiscal each year. The types of offences reported can range from benefit fraud to pollution of drinking water, from illegal dumping of waste to infringement of trading standards. The list of reporting agencies includes bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, as well as Local Authority departments such as Environmental Health and Trading Standards.
Although the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has historically resisted the development of specialist prosecutors, who might handle the offences reported by Specialist Reporting Agencies, on the basis that Procurators Fiscal are, by their very nature, specialists in criminal law whose knowledge and skills can be adapted for any type of prosecution, we have acknowledged that due to advances in technology and the intricacies of modern life and law, the prosecution of crime is becoming increasingly complex.
As part of our commitment to providing a consistent and high standard of service, and in line with the commitment given in A Partnership for a Better Scotland, a national network of prosecutors has been created to specialise in environmental and wildlife law.
Offences such as the pollution of rivers by raw sewage or chemical spillage can pose a real threat both to public health and to the environment but these are not cases that are dealt with every day by Procurators Fiscal and accordingly, a number of existing prosecutors have been appointed and have received specialist training with SEPA.
Similarly, a network of prosecutors has been trained in wildlife offences such as the theft of wild birds' eggs or the shooting or poisoning of protected species of birds or animals.
In establishing a network of Procurators Fiscal with expertise in the prosecution of such offences and who are able to share their experiences across the country more readily, we are helping to make sure that COPFS is equipped to conduct effective investigation and prosecution of environmental crime against a better background of understanding of the context of these offences.
Practice and procedure
Useful information before you make a comment or complaint
If you would like to make a comment or complaint about the work of COPFS, it is advisable to read the Complaints Handling Policy and Guidance below before submitting your comments or complaints.
COPFS is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crime in Scotland, the investigation of sudden or suspicious deaths, and the investigation of criminal complaints against the police. We are committed to providing high quality customer service.
Our purpose is to secure justice for the people of Scotland while observing our core values of being professional and showing respect.
We have Standards of Service
to support and protect victims and witnesses in the Scottish criminal justice system; to make sure they have access to the information they need; and to ensure they are treated fairly.
We value complaints and comments and use information from them to help us address dissatisfaction and where something has gone wrong, prevent the same problems from happening again.
We regard a complaint as any expression of dissatisfaction about our action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided by us or on our behalf.
Anyone can make a complaint or comment on our service or work. While we will answer all aspects of dissatisfaction, only complaints which affect you directly will be considered under our Complaints Handling Procedure. If you want someone else to make a complaint to us on your behalf (such as a family member, friend, support group or legal representative) we will need your written permission. This is because we may need to disclose your personal information.
You can complain about things like:
The remedy or outcome you might want could be:
- Delays in responding to your enquiries and requests
- Failure to provide a service
- Our standard of service
- Our policy
- Treatment by or attitude of member of staff
- Our failure to follow proper procedure
- an apology
- an explanation
- a review of a decision – If you are a victim and your complaint is about a decision not to take court proceedings or a decision to stop the case once it is in court it may be dealt with under our Victims Right to Review guidance
- the return of property
There are some things we can’t deal with through our complaints handling procedure. These include:
- a routine first-time request for a service – for example a first request for information about the progress of a case
- If you want to complain about something that has happened to someone else without their permission it will not be handled through our complaints procedure.
- Sometimes people complain about their experience of the criminal justice system in general, for example, the investigation of a case by the police or things that happened in court. We can only consider feedback about the service you have received from COPFS. If it relates to another organisation or agency, such as Police Scotland, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, or to the verdict or sentence in a case, please contact those agencies directly.
Normally, you must make your complaint within 6 months of finding out that you have reason to complain.
In exceptional circumstances, we may be able to accept a complaint after the time limit. If you feel that the time limit should not apply to your complaint, please tell us why.
If your complaint relates to a current criminal case, we might not be able to respond until the end of the case – for example, until after a trial in court. This will depend on the particular nature and circumstances of the complaint. We will let you know as soon as possible if we need to put your complaint on hold until the case is finished.
If you are the victim in a case reported to us, you have a right to ask us to review a decision made on or after 1 July 2015 not to take action in the first place or to stop or discontinue a case after a case has started in court. A request for review should, where possible, be made within one month of the date you learn the decision from us. More information on how to ask for a review is available on our website.
If we can deal with your complaint as a frontline resolution we will respond within 5 days.
If your complaint cannot be resolved by frontline resolution or is complex and requires investigation we will acknowledge your contact by phone, letter or email within three working days. We aim to provide a full response within 20 working days (not including weekends and public holidays); but if that is not possible, for example, due to the enquiries we need to make to resolve your complaint, then we will keep you advised of progress.
Covid-19: In these unprecedented times, COPFS will focus on its essential tasks in line with its core purpose to prosecute crime and investigate sudden and unexpected deaths. As a result, this may have an effect on our ability to respond within 20 working days, however we aim to respond within our published timescales.
On the very few occasions when persons complaining to COPFS act in a way which we think is unacceptable, we will consider acting under COPFS Unacceptable Actions Policy
We regularly analyse feedback from complaints and comments and see what lessons we can learn to improve our service. As part of that, we will review our policies, systems and procedures and make necessary changes, either at a local level or across the whole of COPFS.
For more information:Please see our COPFS Complaints Handling Procedure
How to make a complaint or comment about our service
- by completing the form (plain text version) in person at any Procurator Fiscal office
- by phoning our national Enquiry Point on: 0300 020 3000 (lines open Mon-Thurs: 8:30 to 17:15; Fri: 8:30 to 17:00)
- by sending the form (plain text version) in to us: Response & Information Unit, Crown Office, 25 Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LA
- for RNID Typetalk prefix our telephone number with 18001
- for callers with a hearing impairment text 07825 280346, letting us know if you would prefer your reply by SMS text message or email - calls will be answered in the first instance by our Enquiry Point.
Our Enquiry Point is open from 08:30 to 17:15 Monday to Thursday; and 08:30 to 17:00 on Friday.
Please note that if you contact us by telephone, we might sometimes ask you to make your complaint in writing, by email or letter. This could happen if we are unable to clarify the nature of your complaint over the telephone or if your complaint is complex.
- your full name
- your contact details
- what remedy or outcome you want
- if it relates to a case
- what, if any, is your relationship with it e.g. victim, witness, accused
- where and what happened
- when did it happen
- any COPFS, police or court reference number
- the names of any of our staff you have been in contact with
- if it relates to a review of a decision not to prosecute in a case in which you are the victim (in addition to the above):
- any new information you have
- the impact this incident had on you including any physical or financial consequences etc.
More information on your right to ask for a review is available on our website
.If it relates to a complaint about the handling of a death:
- the name of the person who has died
- the date and place the death took place.
“I am writing to complain about the decision taken by the Procurator Fiscal in the case against John Smith, who was accused of vandalising my car on DATE.
The Procurator Fiscal case reference number is YZ123456.
The case was heard in X Sheriff Court on DATE . I am not happy because…
What I would like you to do is…”
Depending on the nature and complexity of your complaint or comment it might be possible to resolve it through our ‘Frontline Resolution’ process.
This can be dealt with by any COPFS staff member. A complaint about a legal matter or a request for a review of a decision not to prosecute will not normally be dealt with by Frontline Resolution. More information on your right to ask for a review is available on our website.Frontline Resolution:
We make brief enquiries into your complaint and then contact you:
- to provide an explanation and resolution of your complaint within five working days; or
- to let you know when we anticipate we will be able to reply fully - we may ask you if we can extend this to more than five working days; or
- if your complaint relates in part to the actions of another organisation we will advise you how to complain to them.
If your complaint cannot be resolved straight away when you first contact us:
- your complaint will be passed to our Response and Information Unit (RIU), where staff are trained in handling complaints and all complaints are treated impartially
- we will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 3 working days
- where appropriate, discuss your complaint with you to understand why you remain dissatisfied and what outcome you are looking for
- give you a full response to the complaint as soon as possible and usually within 20 days
If our investigation will take longer than 20 days we will tell you and keep you updated on progress.
A review of a decision not to prosecute: If you are asking for a review of a decision not to prosecute in a case in which you are the victim, we will consider the circumstances of the case and whether the decision not to prosecute was a reasonable one. We will reply in writing advising of our decision and the matters that we took into account in considering it. More information on your right to ask for a review is available on our website.
Complaints about COPFS staff: Complaints about senior members of staff require careful handling to ensure there is no conflict of interest. When serious complaints are raised against senior staff, they will generally be handled by the Head of our Response and Information Unit in the first instance. In appropriate circumstances another senior member of staff who has no direct involvement in the complaint, will carry out an investigation.
If you are dissatisfied with how we handle your complaint you are entitled to raise that with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). The SPSO is the final stage for complaints about most organisations providing public services in Scotland. Their service is independent, free and confidential.
The SPSO cannot normally look at:
- a complaint that has not completed our complaints procedure (so please make sure it has done so before contacting the SPSO)
- events that happened, or that you became aware of, more than a year ago
- a matter that has been or is being considered in court
- it should be noted that the SPSO is the final stage for concerns about how we have handled a complaint and is not an appeal body for the decisions we have taken.
You can contact the SPSO:
4 Melville Street
Freepost (you do not need to use a stamp)
Edinburgh EH3 0BR
Freephone: 0800 377 7330
Online contact www.spso.org.uk/contact-us
Mobile site: http://m.spso.org.uk
We understand that you may be unable, or reluctant, to make a complaint yourself. We accept complaints from the representative of a person who is dissatisfied with our service. We can take complaints from a friend, relative, or an advocate, if you have given them your consent to complain for you.
You can find out about advocates in your area by contacting the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance.
Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance
Tel: 0131 510 9410
For more information:
Please see our COPFS Complaints Handling Procedure