Case Study
SBL's digital certificates expertise aids Scottish justice system

A secure website was required by The Crown Office, the headquarters of the Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland (COPFS), to maximise the electronic delivery of information by its criminal justice partners.

COPFS, which has 47 offices, deals with 300,000 reports of crimes, fires and sudden deaths every year and plays a major role in Scottish Criminal Justice Information Systems.

A key element of the electronic delivery of information to integrate different criminal justice partners is the latest IT systems’ ability to create electronic reporting by Specialist Reporting Agencies (SRAs) – organisations which may uncover crime as part of their everyday work.

Several years ago there were two distinct methods for SRAs to report the details of cases for prosecution to COPFS.

The most common of these was the hand delivery of paper documents used when the alternative method of secure networks and/or electronic reporting applications were not cost effective for the SRA in question.

COPFS realised that many SRAs could not provide a cost effective means of reporting electronically and decided to investigate the possibility of establishing a secure website to provide this facility.

The secure website allows SRAs to submit highly-sensitive information, including criminal case and supporting documents such as witness statements, electronically, and COPFS needed to ensure that the data could not be compromised.

Working closely with SBL, COPFS created a website to allow selected SRA staff to login securely and create, view, modify and delete standard prosecution reports and witness statements and obtain information from the Criminal History System (Scottish Criminal Records Office).

To ensure the integrity of the information transmitted, and security of existing data, it was vital that only selected members of each agency could access the website and would have to authenticate themselves when logging in.

A digital certificate – a recognised means of web-based identity verification - was used with SBL selected as the certification authority because it was able to manage the entire certification process for the COPFS.

This role includes managing the entire digital certificate process, hosting the certificates database within a secure List X facility, ensuring all data is handled by staff vetted to SC level, issuing certificates direct to the recipient via recorded mail, managing a certificate revocation process and providing a customer-friendly service with a single point of contact familiar with COPFS contract and requirements.

After an initial order of about 250 digital certificates for SRAs, COPFS continues to place regular bulk orders with SBL which maintains a secure database of all those issued, revoked and renewed.

IT security officer for The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Bill Reid, says: “Our relationship with SBL goes back many years. SBL’s solution for the managed service for the creation and distribution of digital certificates was judged by our external infrastructure consultants to be more secure than their original design.

“SBL staff are always willing to assist beyond the usual bounds of their remit. They have never let us down in any way and we were more than satisfied with their input to this project.”

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