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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 12:40 GMT
Plans to speed up prosecutions
Coat of arms
Mr Boyd wants to see a faster process
Proposals aimed at making the criminal justice system more efficient have been unveiled by Scotland's top law officer.

Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC has promised speedier prosecutions, quicker action on cases and more openness when dealing with victims and witnesses.

Mr Boyd said the service would aim to serve 80% of indictments in sheriff and jury cases within nine months.

It would also seek to take action in 75% of reported crimes within six weeks by March 2005.

The proposals announced by the lord advocate form part of an ongoing review of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

Alongside quicker disposal of cases, Mr Boyd said improvements in the treatment of victims, their relatives and witnesses were also of great importance.

Mr Boyd said: "Following a number of key management reviews the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is beginning to emerge from a period of great change as a strong, more responsive, positive and outward-looking service.

It will improve efficiency in the courts and allow police to spend more time at the front line
Colin Boyd QC
Lord Advocate
"Thanks to an investment in information technology, new management structures, and the commitment and dedication shown by staff, the department can begin to demonstrate a real improvement in the quality of service it provides to victims, witnesses, and communities throughout the country.

"The Strategic Plan sets out priorities which make plain my commitment to ensuring that the department provides an independent, modern prosecution service fit for the 21st century."

Mr Boyd also promised moves to improve the services' work with other key organisations such as the police and courts service.

A series of "protocols" have been agreed between the organisations, which the Lord Advocate said would result in a better service for the public.

Fixed trial dates

He said: "These documents represent a major change in the way in which we work.

"The priority is to ensure that the Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service works with other agencies to improve the quality of the service we provide to the public.

"It will improve efficiency in the courts and allow police to spend more time at the front line."

Colin Boyd QC
Mr Boyd wants to see a faster process
The move was welcomed by Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Dickson of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPOS).

He said: "It's the start of a new relationship which can be built upon."

Mr Boyd made the announcement as he opened Edinburgh's newly-refurbished 800,000 procurator fiscals' office.

He said the measures would work in tandem with the Scottish Executive's Criminal Procedure Bill.

The Bill would introduce a mandatory preliminary hearing in the High Court to make sure the Crown and defence are ready to go to trial.

Among the other measures included in the Bill are fixed trial dates so that victims and witnesses know exactly when to turn up.

Funding call

The plans were spawned by recommendations contained in a report last year by senior judge Lord Bonomy.

Scottish National Party justice spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said the executive had to plough more money into the justice system to make the reforms work.

She said: "It's time the executive put their money where their mouth is.

"Justice delayed is justice denied. We all want to see improvements in the courts system - the question is whether this Lib-Lab executive mean what they say."


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Scotland's Morag Kinniburgh
"Some cases take years to go throught court"



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