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.
We are committed to providing high quality customer services to members of the public.
We value complaints and comments and use information from them to help us improve our service. If something goes wrong or you are dissatisfied with our services, please tell us.
You can complain about things like:
- failure or refusal to provide a service
- inadequate quality or standard of service, or an unreasonable delay in providing a service
- dissatisfaction with one of our policies or its impact on the individual
- failure to properly apply law, procedure or guidance when delivering services
- failure to follow the appropriate administrative process
- conduct, treatment by or attitude of a member of staff or
- disagreement with a decision where the person cannot use another procedure, (for example a statutory procedure for challenging that decision, or an established appeals process).
The remedy or outcome you might want could be:
- an apology
- an explanation
- 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
- a review of a decision – If you are a victim and your concern 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 Scheme
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.
For more information about what will not be dealt with, read our Complaints Handling Procedure.
Normally, you must make your complaint within six months of:
- the event you want to complain about; or
- finding out that you have a 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 we can deal with your complaint as a frontline response, we will do so within 5 days.
If your complaint cannot be resolved by frontline response 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); and if that is not possible, for example, due to the enquiries we need to make to resolve your complaint, then we will tell you our revised time limits and keep you updated on progress.
Our staff have the right to a safe working environment and we ask individuals bringing a complaint to treat our staff with respect and dignity. We also ask you to actively engage with the complaint handling process by:
- telling us your key issues of concern and organising any supporting information you want to give us (we understand that some people will require support to do this)
- working with us to agree the key points of complaint when an investigation is required; and
- responding to reasonable requests for information.
On the very few occasions when these standards are not met by members of the public complaining to us and their behaviour is unacceptable, we will consider acting under the Unacceptable Actions Policy.
For more information read our Complaints Handling Procedure.
How to make a complaint or comment about our service
You can submit a comment or complaint by:
- completing a complaints form in person at any our Procurator Fiscal offices
- phoning our national Enquiry Point on: 0300 020 3000 (lines open Mon-Thurs: 8:30 to 17:15; Fri: 8:30 to 17:00) - RNID Typetalk prefix our telephone number with 18001
- sending a complaints form to the Response & Information Unit, Crown Office, 25 Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LA.
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 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 Stage One of our Complaints Process as a frontline response. 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 the victims and witensses section of our website.
Frontline Response: 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.
Formal investigation: 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.
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.
After we have given you our final decision, if you are still 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.
The SPSO’s contact details are:
SPSO, Bridgeside House, 99 McDonald Road, Edinburgh, EH7 4NS
If you would like to visit in person, you must make an appointment first.
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 written 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
You can find out about advisers in your area through Citizens Advice Scotland:
Citizens Advice Scotland
Go to www.cas.org.uk or check your phone book for your local citizens advice bureau.
We are committed to making our service easy to use for all members of the community. In line with our statutory equality duties, we will always ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to help you access and use our services.
We also have an Easy Read version of our complaints procedure that you may find useful.