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Health and safety prosecutions: Report by Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland

The Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland reported last month on the performance of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Health and Safety Division. The specialist Health and Safety Division was set up in 2009 to bring greater expertise to prosecutions in this area. One of its aims was to secure more early guilty pleas in order to speed up the process of dealing with health and safety prosecutions. The report concluded that the work completed by the Division was carried out to a high standard and noted that it had been favourably commented on by many contributors to the report. The focus on obtaining guilty pleas and producing agreed narratives of events for the court involved saving time, both for the court and for witnesses, and avoided inconvenience to witnesses. The downside, however, was that few cases went to trial and this could be seen as restricting the development of this area of the law in Scotland. In addition, it appeared that the time taken to resolve cases was increasing, rather than decreasing, and that there was public concern over delays in health and safety prosecutions.

The Inspectorate’s report makes a number of recommendations, focusing mainly on ways to speed up the disposal of cases.

The Crown Office commented that its specialist prosecutors have been highly successful in bringing most cases to a swifter conclusion. The Crown Office highlighted that, since its establishment in 2009, the Division had raised criminal proceedings in 104 cases and only 4 had led to acquittals. In addition, fines of £5.1m had been imposed as a result of health and safety prosecutions.

Inspectorate’s report

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.