• Case ref:
    201706996
  • Date:
    December 2018
  • Body:
    Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
  • Sector(s):
    Scottish Government and Devolved Administration
  • Subject:
    communication / staff attitude / confidentiality
  • Outcome:
    Upheld, recommendations

Summary

Ms C complained about the service provided by the Crown Office and Procurator Service (COPFS) when they were dealing with the investigation into the circumstances around her relative's death and the Victims Right of Review of that investigation. Ms C considered there was a lack of compassion when dealing with her family and that they were always having to chase for information and updates. Ms C also complained about the response she received to her complaint. Ms C considered it was not clear which part of the organisation was dealing with it. She also felt that no specific improvements were addressed as a result of her feedback about her experience.

We upheld all aspects of Ms C's complaint. We found that there was a failure to instigate communication with the family and provide updates, even if the details of those investigations could not be disclosed. There was also a failure to take reasonable care when deciding the route to a meeting room where discussions were held with the family. We considered that the organisation failed to confirm which part of the organisation was dealing with the Victims Right to Review or which part of the organisation was dealing with Ms C's complaint . We also found that when responding to Ms C's complaint there was a failure to clarify what specific steps would be taken to ensure communication with other families would be improved in the future.

Recommendations

What we asked the organisation to do in this case:

  • Apologise to Ms C for failing to instigate communication with her and her family providing updates on the investigation and review; failing to take reasonable care when deciding on the route to the meeting room where discussions were held with Ms C's family; failing to confirm what branch of the organisation was dealing with her request for a Victims Right to Review or complaint; and failing to clarify what specific steps could be taken to improve communication with other victim's families in the future. The apology should meet the standards set out in the SPSO guidelines on apology available at www.spso.org.uk/leafelts-and-guidance.

What we said should change to put things right in future:

  • Members of staff should agree a contact point with victims' families at different stages of investigation and/or review and set prompts to provide regular updates. COPFS should consider what can improve the experience for victims' families.

In relation to complaints handling, we recommended:

  • There should be better coordination and communication within the organisation regarding who is dealing with a complaint where different streams of communication are being used.
  • COPFS should demonstrate that improvements have been made as a result of Ms C's experience.

We have asked the organisation to provide us with evidence that they have implemented the recommendations we have made on this case by the deadline we set.