Investigation and prosecution

If the police have investigated the crime you have reported to them and there is enough evidence against a suspect who is over 16, the police will prepare a report on the case for the Procurator Fiscal.

Find out more information about the Youth Justice Process for suspects under 16 years old.

The Procurator Fiscal
The Procurator Fiscal (PF or Fiscal) works for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) that is responsible for prosecuting crime in Scotland. They are also responsible for investigating sudden or suspicious deaths, and complaints against the police. If you need to contact your local Fiscal and do not have their details, phone 0131 226 2626 to get their details or check the COPFS website.

The prosecution process involves the following steps:

  1. The police (or other Specialist Reporting Agencies, eg. HM Revenue and Customs) carry out an initial crime investigation. If they believe they have enough evidence to support a prosecution they submit a report to the local Procurator Fiscal.
  2. The Procurator Fiscal (PF) considers this report and decides if there is sufficient evidence to disclose a crime known to the law of Scotland. There must be at least two independent pieces of evidence for this to be established. This might include eye-witness stories, fingerprint evidence, or other forensic or scientific evidence. If they think more evidence is needed, the PF may ask the police to carry out further enquiries.
  3. If there is enough evidence, the Procurator Fiscal will then decide what, if any, action it is appropriate to take in the Public Interest, Action includes not only prosecution in court, but also direct measures such as warnings, fiscal fines, compensation offers and social work diversion. The Procurator Fiscal may also decide to take no action. The Procurator Fiscal considers a number of factors in coming to this decision relating to the circumstances of the offence, the accused and any victims or witnesses.
  4. If court proceedings are considered to be appropriate in the circumstances, the Procurator Fiscal will also decide which court these should be taken in. This depends on the nature of the offence, the sentencing powers of the respective courts and whether the accused has a criminal record. Certain crimes can only be heard in certain courts. Find out more information about the different type of courts.

The Fiscal will make their decision based on information, some of which may be confidential. Where a Procurator Fiscal decides to take no action in a case, the victim can ask for an explanation of the decision.

If the crime has been committed by a child, but was reported to the Fiscal, the case can be referred to the Scottish Children's Reporter (SCRA). The rules for dealing with children are different from adults – details of which can be found in the Youth Justice section of this website.

More information can also be found on the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service website. A booklet is also available here that sets out the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service’s commitments to victims and witnesses.