Diversion from prosecution
In Scotland, responsibility for criminal prosecution rests with the Procurator Fiscal who has discretionary powers to ensure that alleged offenders are dealt with in the most appropriate way.
Not all cases have to go to Court and the Procurator Fiscal has various methods to divert people away from Court including fiscal fines, warning letters and diversion to social work or other services.
A Social Work Diversion from Prosecution Scheme is available in South Lanarkshire for anyone aged 16 or over whose home is in the area. Referrals are accepted from any Procurator Fiscal in Scotland but the majority come from Hamilton, Lanark and Glasgow.
The aim of the scheme is to offer a Social Work Service to those referred by the Procurator Fiscal to address any issues related to their alleged offending that will help to avoid the behaviour being repeated. Some of the most common difficulties are alcohol and drug misuse, financial problems, relationship issues and mental health problems.
For Social Work to agree that a person is a suitable candidate for Diversion, the person must:
- broadly accept the details of the charge against them
- agree that there are problem areas in their life
- agree to work with social work to address these difficulties
Work on Diversion can take up to six months and, if completed successfully, means that the person will not have to go to Court.
Failure to cooperate with Social Work, however, will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal and this may lead to the case being prosecuted.
Even where the formal part of Diversion ends positively, the person may carry on working on a voluntary basis with the services they have been linked into to address their behaviour.