Equality and Inclusion is at the forefront of our work and plays an integral part in our attitude and decision making. Strategic direction is set by the Equality and Diversity Strategy Group, which is chaired by the Lord Advocate and includes other senior members of staff. Our work is supported by geographical area equality teams.
Delivery of our work is led by the Equality Board, chaired by the Procurator Fiscal for Local Courts.
The Board reports to the Equality and Diversity Strategy Group which is chaired by Lord Advocate. In addition, our Equality Champion chairs the Justice Board Equality and Diversity sub group, which includes senior representatives from our partners and is working towards delivering shared criminal justice equality objectives.
We also have an Equality Advisory Group, which comprises independent advisers with professional experience of all aspects of equality and diversity and they provide valuable expertise to inform our policies and practices.
COPFS appointed a team of Equality Ambassadors to represent all the protected characteristics from the Equality Act (2010). The Equality Ambassadors engage with a variety of external groups throughout Scotland, and provide advice to our staff when dealing with victims and witnesses.
COPFS is also a partner in the Criminal Justice Disability project. They plan to review disability-related training needs and resources to identify gaps; review communications for people with disabilities; review of complaints received to identify any themes for services provided to people with disabilities; and, take a joined-up approach to the implementation of the Victims and Witnesses Act provisions.
A Criminal Justice Disability Advisory Group was also created consisting of external equalities representatives to support the work of the project. Their remit is to ensure that the work carried out by the project is fit for purpose and meets the particular needs of the disability communities.
Staff from across the country are members of our Sheriffdom Equality Networks, which reflect the geographical spread of our staff and offices. These teams play a vital role in developing links with communities and encouraging staff to help address local issues and promote social responsibility and inclusiveness.
COPFS currently has two staff networks: our Staff Disability Advisory Group, which is made up of disabled staff, staff with caring responsibilities and staff with a special interest in disability equality; and, as part of our commitment to sexual orientation and gender identity, we have a dedicated staff network group called Proud in COPFS.
The Proud network was awarded the 2015 Scottish Network Group of the Year by Stonewall for its continuing support for LGBTI staff and engagement with the wider community.
The goal of creating a fairer society where everyone can participate and has the opportunity to fulfil their potential is backed up in law. The Equality Act 2010 sets out a general equality duty that required Scottish public authorities to pay “due regard” to the need to:
- Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by the Act
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
- Foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not
As part of the responsibility to meet these duties, public authorities must publish a set of Equality Outcomes based on evidence and informed by reasonable involvement of equality groups.
Raising awareness of our role and responsibilities as Scotland’s prosecution service is central to building confidence in our commitment to equality. As a result, much of what we do is focused on working with communities and in schools.
A number of DVDs have been produced to explain the role of the procurator fiscal in Scotland and also to highlight issues around hate crime. The Our Role in Your Community DVD highlights the work of fiscals, our role in investigating deaths, COPFS’ specialist functions and our services for victims and witnesses.
The hard-hitting anti-sectarian short film, Them and Us – which featured sectarianism, fire raising, murder and imprisonment – was created in partnership with North Lanarkshire secondary students.
The DVD has been promoted to education authorities and other youth groups across Scotland including Youthlink Scotland. A teaching pack was devised to support this DVD and is in use as part of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scottish schools.
A second film and teaching pack has been produced with North Lanarkshire Council called Just a Laugh? This short film highlights racism, homophobia and disability hate crime as well as the impact this has on the victims and their families and also the perpetrators.
Other work in schools includes our National Public Speaking Competition, which aims to raise the level of public debate in secondary schools on equality and diversity issues culminating in a national final. The number of schools participating in the competition has risen from 12 in 2014 to over 50 in 2016.
COPFS co-hosts the biennial Tackling Prejudice conferences with Police Scotland which set out the progress made in challenging racism, sectarianism and homophobia, while also emphasising that more needs to be done to tackle hate crime against disabled people. The most recent conference was held in March 2016 when First Ministed, Nicola Sturgeon, delivered the keynote speech.
Prosecution policies have been produced for particular community groups. Older victims of crime often have particular needs, and may also be reluctant to report elder abuse. Our guidance for prosecutors highlighted the diversity in older people’s circumstances and the discrimination they can face – sometimes due to factors other than their age, such as ethnicity, gender or disability. With this in mind, COPFS produced an Older Person’s Policy.
COPFS reviewed its policies and practices after concerns were raised by the transgender community. We adopted a collaborative approach during the review, while also respecting the principles of equality, fairness and access to justice. The policy sets out particular equality issues for prosecutors to consider, when preparing and presenting prosecutions of accused people who are transgender, and is the first of its kind in Europe. We are now in the early stages of developing a policy for transgender and non-binary victims and witnesses.
Equal access to the criminal justice system must be available to all. COPFS plays its part in removing barriers to accessing the justice system and our services. As well as promoting access to the justice system, we must also ensure our services - buildings and information are accessible to diverse communities.
In the last year, we have begun to translate some of our publications into Easy Read format to assist people with learning difficulties to understand our roles and responsibilities and also their rights and entitlements. Examples of this are our Deaths Booklet, access to information for Victims and Witnesses and a series of booklets about the Scottish criminal justice system which covers the main organisations involved.
We are also working with our criminal justice partners to ensure that those accused of a crime, and victims and witnesses have access to high quality interpreting and translation services. To promote our membership of the Happy to Translate (HTT) scheme, posters have been issued to all COPFS reception areas and are now on our website. The HTT logo has been added to our letterheads, publications and leaflets.
Our website contains information about access to our offices for those with mobility, visual and hearing impairments. We regularly review and update this section of the website.
Please visit our Equality and Diversity Publications page for Reports and meeting minutes.
We also have a dedicated page for Schools and Colleges which gives information about learning products we have created with partner organisations.