Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Saving Lives (12/08/15)

I've have never had much time for COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) for reasons which will become clear, but I was encouraged by an article in The Herald the other day which reported that the families of two students who died in a fatal car crash have filed and extensive complaint about COPFS over the way they were treated.

The reason being that the driver of the vehicle which took their daughters lives had a history of blackouts which he failed to report to the DVLA (Driving Vehicle Licensing Authority), but despite his obvious recklessness and disregard for public safety, COPFS decided not to prosecute the man who also had no insurance.

The Herald article can be read in full via the following link, but the 'reasons' for the COPFS are exactly the same as in its equally poor decision not to prosecute the driver in the Glasgow 'bin lorry crash which resulted in the deaths of six people with others badly injured.

Now I disagree with the decision of COPFS because while the drivers in both cases did not set out to maim or kill anyone when they got behind the wheel, the fact is that their prior behaviour before these terrible incidents took place amounted to an accident waiting to happen.

And to add insult to injury over the deaths of Laura Stewart (20) and Mhairi Convy (18), COPFS took over four years to decide that they would not prosecute the driver, William Payne.

I can well understand the anger and frustration felt by the families who have described COPFS as not 'fit for purpose' because that's exactly how it felt to me when I raised a 'not to prosecute; decision with them a few years ago.

The incident itself was nowhere near as serious as these fatal accidents, but the sheer arrogance of COPFS is something I have never come across before in a lifetime of dealing with a wide range of public services across the UK.

I complained to the Justice Secretary at the time, Kenny McAskill, but the 'answer' came back from COPFS as the organisation is part of the government of Scotland and is, practically speaking, both judge and jury in its own cause.

So I wish these families well and this is the kind of issue where you would expect MSPs in the Scottish Parliament to get involved and demand that things must change because if you ask me, COPFS is failing in its first duty which is to protect the public.