Welcome to the area of our site giving information about our roles and responsibilities.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is responsible for the prosecution of crime in Scotland, the investigation of sudden or suspicious deaths and complaints of criminal conduct by police officers on duty. We work closely with our partners in the criminal justice system to help make Scotland a safer place.
For further information regarding the Law Officers and Crown agent please see the Who we are page.
We hope that you will find the information useful, but if there is anything else you would like to know, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The police (or other Specialist Reporting Agencies, e.g. Customs and Excise) carry out an initial crime investigation and submit a report to the local Procurator Fiscal
The Procurator Fiscal considers this report and decides whether to take any action in relation to this case. This decision is taken in the public interest.Where there is enough evidence in the case, the Procurator Fiscal will consider a number of additional factors when deciding whether criminal proceedings should take place. These are set out in full in our Prosecution Code, but include:
- Seriousness of the offence
- Length of time since the offence took place
- Interests of the victim and other witnesses
- Age of the offender, any previous convictions and other relevant factors
- Local community interests or general public concern
- Any other factors at their discretion, according to the facts and circumstances of the case
- Accused persons
COPFS independently investigates criminal allegations (including anti-corruption cases) made against Police Officers in Scotland acting in the course of their duty.
Making a complaint about a police officer
Directly to Police ScotlandComplaints or allegations against police officers should be made directly to Police Scotland. The process for making a complaint can be found on the Police Service of Scotland website. Police Scotland is best placed to receive, record, assess and allocate complaints, as well as track the outcomes. Reporting directly to Police Scotland remains the most effective manner of reporting a criminal allegation.
Reporting to COPFSWe recognise that on some occasions a complainer’s relationship with the Police Service of Scotland will have deteriorated to the extent that there is a fundamental lack of trust or confidence that the complaint will be properly advanced. In these circumstances a criminal allegation against an on-duty police officer can be made directly to COPFS. Only reports of criminal allegations against on duty police officers should be made directly to COPFS. This means where you believe a police officer has committed a criminal offence while at work.Only new criminal allegations that have not previously been reported to the Police Service of Scotland should be reported to us in this way.
How we investigate complaintsThe Criminal Allegations Against the Police Division (CAAPD) is a specialist division within COPFS that investigate allegations against on-duty police officers. All allegations reported to COPFS will be thoroughly investigated.We will refer the complaint to Professional Standards Department (PSD) of the Police Service of Scotland for further consideration and, where appropriate, investigation.We may also instruct further investigation by the Professional Standards Department (PSD) of the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland) or by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).
Complainers' involvementWhere a complaint results in the submission of a report to CAAPD the person making the allegation will also participate in the investigation, either by being given the opportunity to review and amend their statement about the incident or by being interviewed by a member of CAAPD.The investigation will always remain under the control of COPFS.
Outcome of the investigation
Sufficient evidenceWhere there is sufficient evidence, a report will be submitted by COPFS to Crown Counsel. Crown Counsel will then decide if there is sufficient credible, reliable and admissible evidence, and if proceedings are in the public interest, before deciding whether or not to bring a criminal case against the police officer.
Make a complaintMore information about making a complaint to COPFS about a police officer can be found on our page contact us page.
The roles of COPFS and the police are complementary, and regular dialogue and co-operation enables problems and issues to be dealt with efficiently and effectively.
The Procurator Fiscal in Scotland has an investigative role and can provide instructions and directions to the police in connection with their investigations. This happens particularly in serious cases, where the police work very closely with the Procurator Fiscal. In cases of sudden, suspicious and unexplained deaths, the Procurator Fiscal has responsibility during the early stages of the investigation to arrange a post mortem examination by forensic pathologists.