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Crown Office staff sick days up by a fifth in three years, figures show

Crown Office, Edinburgh (Kris Miller / DC Thomson)
Crown Office, Edinburgh (Kris Miller / DC Thomson)

THE number of sick days taken by those working in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has increased by a fifth over the past three years.

Just over 16,000 absences were recorded in 2015/16, according to figures gathered by the Scottish Conservatives using freedom of information.

The number was down from 16,210 in 2014/15, but still up on 2013/14 when 13,326 absences were noted.

The Tories said the statistics mean COPFS workers are taking an average of about 10 days off every year, higher than the average 7.2-day figure across the civil service.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee is currently holding an inquiry into the role of the service.

It comes after members of the Scottish Parliament’s previous justice committee raised concerns over pressures facing COPFS, including a rise in complex cases.

Scottish Conservative community safety spokesman Oliver Mundell said: “These figures send a worrying signal that some fiscals are at breaking point – and while not all of these absences will be directly work-related, many of them are.

“The Scottish Government continues to make legislative changes without giving sufficient thought to the service and people that will need to implement them.

“We also know that more and more people are coming forward to report sexual and domestic abuse.

“These are often highly-complex cases requiring days of preparation – it’s therefore vital there are adequate resources in place to ensure victims aren’t let down.

“No-one doubts the dedication and professionalism of fiscals, but they’re working with less and expected to achieve more.

“That will have an impact on the justice system as a whole and the service the public rightly expects.”

The statistics include a small number of staff with long-term serious health issues while the vast majority of the absences are not linked to work-related stress, according to COPFS officials.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “Staff welfare is of the utmost importance and support systems are in place to help staff deal with the demands of their role.

“The average number of days lost per employee is decreasing but we are not complacent and will continue to work with our trade unions and staff groups to put specific measures in place to address any issues identified.”