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Criminal Justice Committee

Roundtable on Misuse of Drugs Follow-up Evidence

Letter from Anthony McGeehan, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 9 November 2021

Dear Convener,

At the Justice Committee Roundtable on Misuse of Drugs on 27th October 2021,I offered to provide statistics to the Committee on the outcome of the diversions for the 1,000 individuals who were referred for possible by the Procurator Fiscal service in 2020-21.

I can confirm that in relation to the 1,000 accused persons offered diversion in 2020-21; 605 were completed or remain ongoing.

I can confirm that it is typical to see a degree of attrition between the number of diversions offered and the number of completed diversions. There are a number of reasons for this. Where the prosecutor is satisfied that the public interest would be best served by an offer of diversion, they will make a referral to the Local Authority, or other agreed agency, who will then assess the suitability of the individual and may assess them as unsuitable. A person may be assessed as suitable, initially indicate a willingness to engage with diversion, but then fail to participate. Further, a diversion is an offer, which an accused person is entitled to reject.

In relation to the benefits of diversion, the Community Justice Scotland National Guidelines on Diversion from Prosecution in Scotland, describe the potential benefits of a successful diversion from prosecution as being:

a) it allows the individual an opportunity for support to deal with the issues personal to them in the context of the alleged offence

b) avoiding unnecessary contact with the criminal justice system

c) the individual does not receive a conviction for the alleged offence, which can impact on their longer-term employment opportunities

As a prosecution service, COPFS do not and cannot undertake continued monitoring of accused persons who have completed a diversion programme. Where an individual who has previously been offered diversion from prosecution is subsequently reported to the Procurator Fiscal, that previous offer may be a factor which prosecutors consider when assessing what outcome, in the particular circumstances of the case, is appropriate in the public interest. However, as set out in the previously submitted written evidence, prosecution policy recognises that there is no one size fits all approach. For some people a one-off intervention will not necessarily be sufficient. To that end, there is no limit on the number of times a diversion might be offered to an individual and rejecting diversion or a lack of engagement on one occasion does not mean that diversion won’t be offered in the future. Each case will be determined on its own facts and circumstances.

I trust this is of assistance.

Yours sincerely

A McGeehan
Procurator Fiscal Policy and Engagement

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The Role of the Scottish Criminal Justice Sector in Tackling the Misuse of Drugs

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