The Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has put forward the idea of giving victims of crime a chance to make an oral statement on their experiences to a court in the hope of giving them a better voice in the criminal justice process.
Mr MacAskill announced that the Scottish Government is seeking views on the idea during a speech to VSS's annual general meeting held in the City of Edinburgh Council Chambers on Wednesday, September 12.
The Justice Secretary told delegates that it was important to give people the right and opportunity to be heard as they wish to be.
"We have listened to the suggestions made during consultations on the new Victims and Witnesses of Crime Bill and the EU Directive, but we won't stop listening. Some victims have said they want to be able to make a statement and at the moment don't have that right.
"Too often victims can feel they have the smallest voice in the justice process. I spoke to one lady recently and hearing from her directly about the death of her son was much more powerful than any written account could be.
"If people want to be able to do that, we should look at giving them that right."
That was why the Government was seeking views on the idea.
"We are trying to modernise and improve the system and we should make efforts to explore things such as these."
Mr MacAskill praised Victim Support Scotland on recording its most successful year ever and on "the remarkable achievement" of working with more than 190,000 victims and witnesses over the past 12 months. Adding that he wanted to thank volunteers for all their efforts he said: "Your work is vital. The police and the criminal justice system cannot work properly without your help. I want to thank each of you for what you do."
VSS Chief Executive David McKennqa welcomed the Scottish Government's decision to seek consultations on the idea of oral statements by victims, but said it could go even further.
"We think you can trust victims to go to court and make a statement on the day," said Mr McKenna. "We need to take this idea forward. We believe victims should have the right to make a statement to the Parole Board on decisions to release offenders. And we also believe victims should have the right to challenge decisions not to go ahead with cases."
Mr McKenna said the proposed Victims and Witnesses Bill represented a great victory for victims and a new frontier for Scotland as a whole but he promised that VSS would maintain a radical approach on promoting rights and services.
"We will be challenging and radical in our approach to the Bill to ensure that it serves our communities."
He suggested that more needed to be done on supporting the small number of families affected by murder every year, for young victims of crime in closing the gap in the provision of services to them, and in helping victims with their immediate needs in the aftermath of crime where unexpected expenditure was a problem.
"We are committed to making Scotland safer; reducing offending, preventing re-offending, and building confidence in the criminal justice system among victims and witnesses."
VSS chairman Bob Leitch, who was re-elected for another three-year term at the meeting, thanked Mr MacAskill and Mr McKenna for their efforts on behalf of VSS, and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh Donald Wilson, for the city's hospitality in hosting the event.
Mr Leitch added: "We are very pleased to have a strong working relationship with the Scottish Justice Secretary, and we are grateful for the support and understanding he has of our work."
Executive Board Vice Chair Alan Davie demitted office at the meeting and Mr Leitch thanked him for his great efforts on behalf of the charity over his years in office. Mr Davie and his wife, Brenda, were presented with gifts and flowers by the chairman.
In the election to choose a replacement for Mr Davie, VSS Treasurer Ian Chisholm narrowly defeated Executive Board member Steve Delaney.
Company members also approved the election of businesswoman Liz Taylor to the VSS Executive Board.