Victim statement expansion
2 Sep 2019 11:51 AM
Giving more victims a voice in court to explain how crime has affected them.
Victims of stalking are among those who could get the right to explain to courts how they have personally suffered as a result of crime.
A new consultation asks if victims of all serious crimes - including human trafficking, domestic abuse and religiously aggravated offences - should be able to detail in court how they have been impacted physically, emotionally and financially by the crime.
At present, victims of violent crimes and people affected by a murder have the option of making a written victim statement about the impact a crime has had upon them to be considered by sheriffs and judges as part of the sentencing process.
Now views are being sought on widening the use of these statements.
New ways to use technology to lessen the burden on victims when making a statement are also up for consideration, which is part of broader work backed by £18 million of funding to improve support, advice and information for victims and their families.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf recently said:
“The long-term fall in crime over the last decade means fewer people fall prey to criminals in Scotland, but any experience of a serious crime can be traumatic and the fallout can affect many parts of a victim’s life.
“Victim statements are a way of giving people the option of having their voice heard in court to tell their side of the story – how they and their loved ones have been impacted by the crime. For maximum effectiveness the system must keep pace with technology and changes to the criminal law and we are committed to ensuring the voices of victims are represented as we continue developing victim support.”
Widening the Scope of Victim Statements consultation is open for responses until 24 November 2019.
Under the current scheme victims of certain serious crimes may be eligible to make a written statement that tells the court – in their own words – how a crime has affected them physically, emotionally and financially. The victim statement is part of the information available to the judge or sheriff in reaching a sentencing decision.
The current list of offences in relation to which a victim statement can be made was prescribed in 2009.
Section 23 of the Victims & Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 provides powers to pilot (and extend more widely if appropriate) different ways for a victim statement to be made, for example by pre-recording it so it can be played in court.
The consultation also seeks views on the definition of who is eligible to make a victim statement.
The Scottish Government is providing £18 million in 2019-20 to support victims, including to third sector organisations who provide practical and emotional support to victims.