Procurator Fiscal

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Scots law

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Courts of Scotland

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House of Lords
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Lord President
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High Court of Justiciary
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Criminal justice

Lord Advocate
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Advocate Depute
Procurator Fiscal

Advocates and solicitors

Faculty of Advocates
Law Society of Scotland

A procurator fiscal is the local public prosecutor in Scotland. He/she also carries out functions broadly equivalent to the coroner in other legal systems.

For the majority of crimes in Scotland the procurators fiscal present cases for the prosecution in the Sheriff and District Courts, and the case for the defence is presented either by the accused, a solicitor or an advocate. The solicitor will work for a firm of solicitors, or in certain areas of Scotland could be a public defender.

The Procurator Fiscal has a great deal of discretion, but is always subject to the directions of Crown Office and the Lord Advocate.


[edit] Prosecution of crimes

The Procurator Fiscal makes preliminary investigations into criminal cases, takes written statements from witnesses (known as precognition) and is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crime. This includes the power to direct the police in their investigation, but except for serious crimes such as murder the police normally complete their enquiries before involving the procurator fiscal. Once someone has been charged with an offence and remanded in custody, the Crown must bring the case to trial within 110 days or the accused will be admitted to bail. Otherwise, in serious cases (solemn procedure) the trial must commence within 12 months of the date of first appearance in court.

[edit] Deaths

As the local official concerned with suspicious and sudden deaths, the Procurator Fiscal is responsible for determining all causes of death within their jurisdictions. They do not hold inquests, but instead will make direct enquiries to determine if any crime has been committed, and if one has been committed, prosecute the offender. In certain circumstances, they conduct a Fatal Accident Inquiry to determine cause and culpability.

[edit] Serious crimes

For the most serious crimes, the case will not be directly prosecuted by the Procurator Fiscal. Instead, the case will be heard at the High Court of Justiciary and the prosecution will be made in the name of the Lord Advocate by an Advocate Depute.

[edit] Origins

The origin of the office is uncertain but, as the title suggests, the procurator fiscal may originally have been an officer of the sheriff with financial (fiscal) responsibilities. However, any such responsibilities had been eclipsed in the course of the eighteenth century by his duty as prosecutor in the sheriff court. In this capacity he gave concurrence in private prosecutions and prosecuted on behalf of the Crown. Until the end of the 18th century the fiscal was the sheriff's official and tenure of the office was at the pleasure of the sheriff, but with the decline of private prosecution the fiscal came to be regarded more and more as under the control of the Lord Advocate. From 1776 the government started to pay procurators fiscal to take precognitions and in 1907 the right of appointing procurators fiscal was transferred to the Lord Advocate.

[edit] External link

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