Back to top
Article

Website review

15 December 08

Reviews of a selection of websites pertaining to the criminal law

by Iain Nisbet

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

www.copfs.gov.uk

Arriving at this website triggered a strong feeling of déjà vu. It is very similar in layout and design to the Scottish Government’s website (www.scotland.gov.uk) – which, in point of fact, is no bad thing. Perhaps it’s another example of efficiency savings in government?

The other thing that struck me was the clever way in which all of the most relevant internal links were immediately drawn to my attention without the use of animations, images or other distracting features. Instead, a series of headings together with excellent layout and use of columns on the front page did the trick.

Critical information for victims of crime and witnesses was to be found by clicking on the main navigation masthead, or on the titles under the “key information” heading. Further text links could also be found at the foot of the page. Here, as elsewhere on the site, the navigation worked well.

Aside from vital information for victims and witnesses, was there any information of interest to the criminal law practitioner? The main candidates would be the “news” and “publications” sections, where recent news has included appointments of procurators fiscal, the creation of a specialist Health & Safety division, and the release of new guidance for chief constables on the investigation of sexual offences. That same guidance can be downloaded from the publications pages, along with such offerings as the regional business plans and a code of practice for working with interpreters in the criminal justice system.

If you fancy working for the Crown Office or PFS, the careers section offers some useful information as well as current vacancies. Finally, the archives section is well worth a visit. As an example, did you know that an Act of 1661 imposed the death penalty for cursing your father or mother, but only if the cursing was in strong terms!

Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland

www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/ipis

The Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland (IPS) does not have its own website, making do instead with a corner of the Scottish Government’s site (the merits of which have been touched on above). It will suffice for me therefore to outline the main features of the site.

Obviously, this is the place to come if you are looking for IPS reports, which are categorised as thematic reports, office inspection reports, or area inspection reports.

In addition brief biographies of the inspectors are provided.

These web pages are perfectly reasonable, easy to access and informative. It may not quite be projecting the right image though. It occurs to me that, while the IPS is supposed to be an independent inspectorate of the prosecution service, every inch of this – and most especially the email address (Inspectorate@copfs.gsi.gov.uk) – suggests quite the opposite.

Risk Management Authority

www.rmascotland.gov.uk

The Risk Management Authority (RMA) “is the Scottish public body which has been set up to ensure the effective assessment, management and minimisation of risk of serious violent and sexual offenders”. As far as I can fathom, this involves accrediting risk assessors for the purposes of reporting to the courts where an order for lifelong restriction (OLR) may be imposed.

First the bad news – if you’re not using Internet Explorer (and why on earth should you have to?) to view this website, it will probably look a bit messy and you may have to scroll to find the page content.

The website certainly has a lot of information, a lot of which is laden with excessive jargon – even for a legal website! The main navigation didn’t seem to me to be in a particularly logical order and clicking on some links meant – annoyingly – jumping to a new window to view a PDF document without warning.

However, there is some good news. Credit must be given to the RMA for the sheer volume of useful information made available here. Clearly, this is the site to visit to check the register of accredited risk assessors or if you’re interested in being accredited. Much, much more than that is available though. If you’re prepared to look for it, the RMA have some really useful documents available: research, position papers, risk assessment methodologies and a large collection of genuinely fascinating PowerPoint presentations from their “stakeholder events”. May be worth digging around if you’ve the time to spare.

Have your say