HC Deb 09 November 1966 vol 735 cc1304-5
33. Mr. Wylie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has for increasing the number of full-time procurators fiscal, in view of the existing delay in the trial of criminal cases.

Mr. Willis

The Lord Advocate is responsible for the staffing of the procurator fiscal service. Increases depend on the volume of work in a particular district and new posts are created whenever necessary. During this year two districts have received an additional depute procurator fiscal.

Mr. Wylie

Is the Minister of State aware that the delay in the prosecution of criminal causes in Scotland is causing a great deal of alarm, that it has drawn comments from the High Court bench, and that at the moment in Dundee, for example, it appears to take over a year for an indictable case to come to trial? Will he at least assure us that he is alive to the serious danger of the system of public prosecution breaking down unless something is done about the staffing of the procurator fiscal service?

Mr. Willis

I know that there are delays in the courts, but they are not all attributable to the procurator fiscal service. I have given the facts about this. If there is shown to be a need for additional procurators fiscal, my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate will give authority to recruit more. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, there is a general shortage of legal civil servants.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will the Scottish Minister who is dealing with the problem of procurators fiscal also extend their powers so as to make them more commensurate with the needs of today?

Mr. Willis

I am not quite sure what that means. In any case, it is a different question.