Accessibility |


The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having a significant impact on the Scottish criminal justice system. Visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19): information for those due to attend court page, or the Coronavirus (COVID-19): information for bereaved families page for further information. 

Q. What is the procurator fiscal?

A. Fiscals are based throughout Scotland. They are legally qualified civil servants who receive reports about crimes from the police and others and then decide what action to take in the public interest, including whether to prosecute someone. They also look into deaths that need further explanation and investigate allegations of criminal conduct against police officers. The Crown Office refers to the buildings and staff at our headquarters in Edinburgh city centre.

Q. Is the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service connected to the courts or the police?

A. COPFS is Scotland’s sole prosecuting service, independent of the police and the courts. We are a department of the Scottish Government but decisions about criminal prosecutions and the investigation of deaths are taken independently of any other person. We work closely with others, such as the courts and the police, to ensure the criminal justice system is fair and effective.

Q. Is COPFS the same as the Crown Prosecution Service?

A. The Crown Prosecution Service, or CPS, is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

Q. Who are the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General?

A. The Lord Advocate is the ministerial head of COPFS. He is the senior of the two Law Officers, along with the Solicitor General for Scotland. Both are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the First Minister, with the agreement of the Scottish Parliament. The Lord Advocate is a member of the Scottish Government as principal legal adviser, but decisions by him about criminal prosecutions and the investigation of deaths are taken independently of any other person. In that way, he is not subject to the ordinary rules about collective ministerial decisions.

Q. What is an advocate depute?

A. Advocate deputes are experienced prosecutors appointed by the Lord Advocate. They make decisions in serious cases and fatal accident inquiries, also advising procurators fiscal on complex or sensitive issues.

Q. Prosecutions are said to be taken in the “public interest” – what does this mean?

A. In considering the public interest, prosecutors take a number of factors into account, including the interests of the victim, the accused and the wider community. This can involve competing interests and will vary with every case. As a result, assessment of the public interest involves careful consideration of all factors.

Q. How do I make a complaint about a police officer?

A. You can contact COPFS if it is a complaint about the criminal conduct of a police officer. Otherwise, you should contact the Police Scotland/Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

Q. What is the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer?

A. The Crown Agent, who acts as the COPFS Chief Executive, also holds the office of Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (QLTR). The QLTR administers the property of dissolved companies and people with no known relatives who die without a will. The QLTR also has responsibilities for lost and abandoned property, such as treasure trove – significant objects from Scotland’s past – found by members of the public. For more information see the QLTR website.

Q. I have been called to take part in jury duty – can you answer my questions?

A. If you have questions about your jury service, you should contact the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service. Contact details will be on your juror’s citation and information leaflet.

Q. How do I get back my property taken during an investigation?

A. The police return property after the case has finished. If you have not received your property six to eight weeks after the end of the case or if you have any other questions regarding your property, then please contact the relevant Police Office for assistance.

Q. How do I make a complaint about the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service?

A. The function of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service is to provide administrative support to Scottish courts and to the judiciary of those courts, including the High Court of Justiciary, Court of Session, Sheriff Courts and Justice of the Peace courts, and to the Office of the Public Guardian and Accountant of Court.

If you would like to make a complaint about the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service please contact them directly, as we are not able to deal with these complaints.

See the
Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service complaints and feedback web page about how to make a complaint or give feedback to them.