Witness interviews (precognition)
Interviews by the Procurator Fiscal
Sometimes the Procurator Fiscal (PF)Often just called the Fiscal. The Procurator Fiscal is the public prosecutor in Scotland. The PF is in charge of deciding whether someone should be prosecuted and what court the case should be heard in. The prosecution has the 'burden of proof' which means that they need to present enough evidence to prove 'beyond reasonable doubt' that an accused person is guilty. The PF prosecutes the crime on behalf of the Crown, and makes decisions in the public interest (see below). (see Crown Office) or someone on their behalf, known as a precognition officer or precognoscer, speaks to some or all of the witnesses individually about the case and the evidence they will give. This is called a precognition investigation interview, or precognition for short. It often takes place at the Fiscal’s office, and is a chance to make sure the Fiscal knows as much as possible about the case.
You might also be asked for a precognition by the defence solicitor.
Interviews by defence solicitors
If someone is accused of a crime, they will usually have a lawyer to help them. This lawyer will act on their behalf in any court proceedings and is known as the defence. It is the defence solicitor’s job to represent the accused.
The defence interview can be arranged for a time and a place of your choosing, within reason. If you wish to be accompanied by someone when you are interviewed this can be arranged (as long as they are not a witness in the same trial).
Many people worry that they might help the person who committed the crime if they tell the defence solicitor anything. However, speaking to the defence solicitor can be helpful, as it will let the solicitor know what evidence there is against their client (the accused) and help them give the best advice. Sometimes this might be to advise the accused to plead guilty, thus avoiding a trial.
If you have been a victim of a crime you might get a letter from the defence solicitor asking to talk to (or precognosce) you. This is called a precognition interview, or precognition for short, and is a routine part of proceedings.
Defence solicitors often employ people to take precognitions for them, called precognition agents. The Law Society for Scotland, (the governing body for lawyers in Scotland), has rules about the use of precognition agents and their conduct. For more information about the Law Society visit The Law Society of Scotland website.
The defence may also question you in court if there is a trial and you are called as a witness.