Headlines: January 15th, 2003

Investment in public services in Scotland must be matched by changed working practices and 21st century attitudes. This commitment to change was sent to public service workers across Scotland by First Minister Jack McConnell. Speaking to an audience of police recruits he used examples from the criminal justice system to stress that investment, whether in people or new technology, must go hand in hand with reform in structures, attitudes and behaviour.There is a quality gap to close between the criminal justice service people expect and the service they too often receive. There are problems of overload, uncertainty, duplication of planning and effort, cases appearing again and again without resolution – and the time wasting and upset this causes. Too many police officers are wasting their time grappling with old fashioned procedures and outdated bureaucracy, hanging around courts for cases that are don’t get called. Victims are left unsure about what is happening to their case or when it will be concluded. And witnesses are called to court just to be sent away again.

A process due for reform is the citation of witnesses to court which has become a major human intensive industry. Most of the work is carried out by either police officers or civilian staff, who personally deliver information to the home of each witness. A pilot project using the post service shows that this approach can produce comparable results to the personal delivery service. This both saves money and also allows professional skill to be used where it is needed.

He called for the police service to be radical and constructive in its approach to streamlining. He also urged that there should be a sharing of common services between police forces. He gave a commitment that excellent performance in the public sector will be celebrated and rewarded and there will be action where services are failing.