New measures to support victims and witnesses

7 Sep 2015 01:29 PM

Changes extend automatic eligibility for certain support measures

New measures to support victims and witnesses will put their interests at the heart of improvements to the justice system.

The latest package of measures to be implemented from the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 came into force earlier last week (1 September 2015) and will improve support for vulnerable witnesses.

The automatic eligibility for certain support measures, like giving evidence via video link, is being extended to all those aged under 18 and alleged victims of sexual offences, domestic abuse, human trafficking and stalking.

A new category of vulnerability is created, for people likely to suffer significant risk of harm as a result of giving evidence.

Other measures being introduced include the option of making a closed court available as a special measure for vulnerable witnesses. The age at which press reporting restrictions apply for any child concerned in criminal proceedings, whether as a victim, witness or accused, is also increasing from under 16 to under 18.

The Government also intends to extend the availability of special measures to the Justice of the Peace courts later this year, subject to Parliamentary approval, ensuring such measures are available throughout the court system.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, said:

“These changes ensure that those who are vulnerable are offered the right support to give them the confidence to fulfil their public duty and know their voices will be heard. Providing help and support for victims and witnesses is key to building an even stronger criminal justice system in Scotland.

“We have worked closely with victim support organisations and criminal justice agencies throughout the legislative process and in planning for implementation, and the measures in this Act have been widely welcomed.”

The Act is being implemented in stages and a number of measures are already in force:

  • A new right for alleged victims of sexual offences, domestic abuse, human trafficking and stalking to specify the gender of their police interviewer
  • A new right for victims and witnesses to access information about the progress of their case
  • The publications of standards of service for victims and witnesses so they know what to expect from the criminal justice agencies

Notes To Editors

Previous justice measures from the Act were brought into force on 13 August 2014, 30 January 2015 and 1 July 2015

The Act also helps meet European obligations on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.

Further information on the Act can be found at the following link: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/policies/victims-witnesses