COPFS provides Scotland’s independent prosecution service. We are a department of the Scottish Government, headed by the Lord Advocate.
The document below, available in a Word and a PDF format, provides more information on the COPFS governance structure.
This following section sets out some of the roles and functions of those who contribute to our work.
The Lord Advocate is the ministerial head of COPFS, leading the system of criminal prosecutions and the investigation of deaths. He is the senior of the two Law Officers, along with the Solicitor General for Scotland. Both are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the First Minister, with the agreement of the Scottish Parliament. The Lord Advocate is a Minister of the Scottish Government and acts as principal legal adviser, but decisions by him about criminal prosecutions and the investigation of deaths are taken independently of any other person. In that way, he is not subject to the ordinary rules about collective ministerial decisions.
The Solicitor General is the Lord Advocate’s deputy. She assists the Lord Advocate to carry out his functions. She is also a Minister of the Scottish Government.
The Crown Agent is the principal legal advisor to the Lord Advocate on prosecution matters and the Chief Executive of COPFS. Crown Agent - Biography
Procurators Fiscal are legally qualified prosecutors who work in specialist units and offices around Scotland. Where necessary, they direct the police in investigating crime. They investigate all sudden and suspicious deaths in Scotland, conduct Fatal Accident Inquiries and handle criminal complaints against the police.
The police and other reporting agencies submit more than 250,000 cases a year to COPFS.
For the majority of crimes in Scotland the Procurators Fiscal present cases for the prosecution in the Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts.
Advocate Deputes are appointed by the Lord Advocate. They make decisions in serious cases and also advise Procurators Fiscal on complex or sensitive issues.
- Senior Advocate Deputes prosecute serious, complex or sensitive cases, deal with conviction appeals and decide which cases should be indicted in the High Court
- Advocate Deputes prosecute the majority of cases in the High Court, and have the opportunity to prosecute in serious and complex cases and carry out some appeal work
Together, the Lord Advocate, Solicitor General and the Advocate Deputes are known as Crown Counsel.