Scottish rights for victims of crime
As a victim of crime, you have certain rights that you can expect to be fulfilled in your engagement with criminal justice agencies. The Scottish Government has produced National Standards for Victims of Crime, expressing what standards of services victims should be given in their dealings with the criminal justice or children’s hearing systems. The National Standards brings out three main rights for victims in
1. Access to information
- You should have access to relevant information at an early stage and at appropriate points in the process. This should include information on procedures, your role in them (if any), reports on progress (giving an explanation for any delays) and outcomes of criminal proceedings, and where, if possible, you can get further information and assistance.
- You should be able to understand the information that is given to you. The language should be easy to understand and the information should be available in alternative languages or formats if required.
- You should be told who to contact if you want to discuss the information that has been provided. Information providers should be able to explain anything you do not understand. If the information is about a decision that has been taken, they will tell you as much as they can about why that decision has been made.
2. Provision of support
After a crime, you may need support. This could be provided by a voluntary organisation (such as Victim Support
- You should be able to discuss your needs and you should be fully consulted on decisions affecting you at all times. The organisation should clearly describe the types of service they provide and agree what they will do on your behalf. If you are uncomfortable with a suggested course of action, with the service being provided or you wish to stop contact with the service, your wishes should be respected.
- You should be satisfied with the quality of service you are receiving. You should be given an opportunity to give feedback to the organisation on the service that you receive.
- Services should be confidential at all times. Information about you is subject to data protection legislation and should not be disclosed to any third party unless you have consented; there is a legal requirement to do so; there is an overriding moral consideration; or disclosure would assist in the prevention or detection of crime.
Your participation in criminal proceedings will usually be as a witness. A number of people will want to speak to you about what happened to you before, during or after the crime, and any effect the crime has had on you.
- When people contact you, they should explain clearly who they are, why they are contacting you and what is expected of you. Before the court case, you may be contacted by the Children's Reporter, the Procurator Fiscal or the defence lawyer (or someone acting on their behalf). They may want to ask you questions about the crime. Their first contact should be by telephone or letter.
- Where possible, meetings should be arranged at a time that is suitable for you. If the time suggested is unsuitable, you can suggest an alternative. However, if you are cited as a witness in a court case, you will have to attend court at the time and date specified in the letter from the Procurator Fiscal or Children's Reporter.
- If you are a child witness or other very vulnerable witness, it may be possible for you to get assistance at court to help you give your best evidence. The Procurator Fiscal or Children's Reporter can ask the court to consider allowing you to give evidence using "special measures" such as using a screen or a live television link, or being accompanied by a support person. The lawyer for the accused can also ask for similar measures for defence witnesses.
If you have been a victim of violent crime, you may be entitled to compensation. Please contact Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) or Victim Support
5. Victim Notification Scheme
The Victim Notification Scheme provides the victim with information regarding the offender, in cases there the offender was sentenced to a custodial sentence of more than 18 months.
What information can I receive?
There are 2 parts to the scheme and, if you choose to take part, you can choose to opt in to either part 1 or part 2, or both parts.
If you opt in to part 1, you will receive information on:
(a) The date of release of the offender from prison or detention. This information will be sent to you about a month before the date of release, so that you have some prior warning of it.
(b ) If the offender dies before being released, the date of the death. This information will be sent to you as soon as possible after the date of the death. You should be aware that there may be early press coverage of the death of an offender.
(c) If the offender has been transferred out of
(d) That the offender has become eligible for temporary release. When offenders serve long sentences they can become involved in training and rehabilitation programmes and can be allowed leave from prison in preparation for release. You will be informed when the offender first becomes eligible for temporary release. However, you will not be told about each individual period of temporary release.
(e) If the offender has escaped or absconded. Sometimes prisoners fail to return to prison after home leave or a work placement. The police are alerted immediately. If the prisoner is considered to present a threat to the victim, the police will take steps to ensure that the victim is notified as soon as possible. Usually, however, prisoners who fail to return to prison are not dangerous and return to prison within the first 48 hours. Information about the offender escaping or absconding will be notified to you if the offender remains at large after 48 hours. You will also be told when the prisoner is returned to custody.
If you opt in to part 2, you will receive the following information:
(a) When the Parole Board for
(b) Whether the Parole Board recommends or directs release of the offender. This information will be sent to you as soon as possible after the offender's case has been considered by the Parole Board.
(c) Whether any conditions have been attached to the licence that relate to you or your family. This information will be sent to you as soon as possible after the offender's case has been considered by the Parole Board.
If you have opted in to part 2 of the VNS, the Parole Board will tell you about its decisions whether or not you choose to send any written comments.
How do I take part in the Victim Notification Scheme?
You should contact the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to register on the scheme. You must also tell the SPS if you change your address and still want to receive information. A change of address form is provided for you.
Do I have to take part in the Victim Notification Scheme?
No, it is entirely your choice whether you wish to receive this information about the offender.
What if I change my mind?
Some people find it difficult to make a decision about joining the VNS so soon after the end of the court case. If at first you decide not to take part, and then later want to receive information about the offender, you can send the Form to the SPS at any time or contact them
Does the offender know that I have registered with the VNS?
No. The Victim Notification Section of the SPS does not tell the offender that you are on the scheme. However, if you later choose to send written comments to the Parole Board, the offender is likely to see them.
6. Victim Statement
From April 2009 victims of certain crimes in cases heard in a High Court or in cases where a Sheriff sits with a jury (courts of solemn jurisdiction) will be able to choose to make a statement telling the court of the emotional, financial and medical impact a crime had on them. The prosecutor will put the statement before the court after a finding of guilt but before sentencing. Statements are designed to give victims a voice, not influence the sentence. Victim Support Scotland will be able to help you if you would like to make a statement.
7. Block telephone calls from offender
Some victims suffer from disturbing and unwanted telephone calls from the offender in prison. It is possible to prevent prisoners from contacting victims; the Direction to Rule 62 of the Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions (
4) A prisoner is prohibited from using a prisoner telephone to make a telephone call-
(b) to any person who has indicated in writing that they do not wish to receive telephone calls from that or any other prisoner;
This provides that a victim can write to Scottish Prison Service (SPS), providing their telephone number, and it will be added to the “banned” list of telephone numbers, which prevents the number being called from any prisoner telephone at that prison.
International rights for victims in
Free movement is one of the key principles of the European Union. That also imposes on the EU a duty to ensure that people moving within its borders are safe. Beyond protecting its own citizens, the EU needs to guarantee the safety of the increasing number of foreign nationals coming to travel, work or study within the
Democratic societies have an obligation to alleviate the effects of crime, including the adverse consequences of victimisation. Being a victim of crime affects all aspects of life and often leaves the person feeling anxiety, depression or in some cases post-traumatic disorders. Experience has shown that victims are more likely to cope effectively with the emotional consequences of crime and make a good recovery if they are provided with an early opportunity to talk openly and in confidence about their reactions to people who have been trained to offer suitable support.
International rights of victims
If you have been a victim of crime, the local police will be able to help you report the crime. You are not obligated to report the crime, but it is often a requirement it you wish to apply for compensation. The police should also be able to provide you with information, or direct you to the agency that can give you more details, regarding the following:
· your possibilities for claiming compensation for criminal injuries;
· your eligibility to apply for legal aid and advice;
· the functioning of the national criminal justice system and how to initiate legal proceedings;
· organisations offering additional support and assistance, for instance Victim Support Scotland.
Victims’ right to information and participation
· you should have access to relevant information at the appropriate points in the legal process
· you should be able to understand the information given to you, and be told who to contact if you want to discuss the information that has been provided
· to facilitate your participation in the legal proceeding (usually as a witness), all legal agencies involved should explain clearly who they are, why they are contacting you and what is expected of you. Victim Support Scotland can provide you with more information regarding the national legal system.
Emotional support to victims of crime
Victim Support organisations provide assistance to all victims of crime, regardless of whether or not the incident has been reported to the police, but the coverage rates of specialised support agencies varies across the European Member States. In some EU Member States, victim issues are prioritised on the political agenda and improvements have been made in the promotion and protection of victims’ rights. However, in some states little attention has been given to the issues, which has subsequently meant that reforms to enhance services to victims have been mainly ignored. There is a clear gap between the supply and demand of victim support and more work is needed to expand the service provision to victims of crime across the whole EU region.
EU Framework Decision of the Standing of Victims in Criminal Proceedings
Efforts have been made to improve conditions for victims of crime. In March 2001 the Council of Ministers of the European Union adopted the Framework Decision on the Standing of Victims in Criminal Proceedings. The aim of the Framework was to lay down requirements for the
· respect and recognition
· receive information
· communication safeguards, to assist their understanding and participation in the criminal proceedings
· protection (for the victim and where appropriate their family)
· compensation (see below for more information)
· specialist support services (see below for more information)
With more and more people travelling, living and studying abroad, many people are victimised in States other than their own. However, support offered to victims varies depending on in which country the crime is committed and in which country the victim resides. Anybody can become a victim of crime, but the typical behaviour of tourists, such as carrying cameras, gazing at sights or just unfamiliarity with the area implies that they are easily spotted. Language barriers, cultural and religious differences and the complexities of different countries’ legal systems can make foreign victims additionally vulnerable. The lack of family, friends and social support in the country often adds to the strain and isolation felt by this group of victims. If you are a victim of crime in a country other you’re your own, Victim Support Europe can be of assistance to inform you of available support organisations. Please see the contact details of our member organisations, who are able to provide you with more practical assistance.
Victims’ right to compensation has been stressed in several international documents, such as the Council of Europe Convention on the Compensation for Victims of Violent Crimes; UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power; and the EU Framework Decision on the Standing of Victims in Criminal Proceedings.
In 2004, the European Union adopted the Directive 2004/80/EC relating to Compensation to Crime Victims. The preamble highlights the European Council’s previous commitment to victims of crime and “the drawing-up of minimum standards on the protection of the victims of crime, in particular on crime victims’ access to justice and their rights to compensation”. The Directive goes on to state that “crime victims in the European Union should be entitled to fair and appropriate compensation for the injuries they have suffered, regardless of where in the European Community the crime was committed”.
The Directive calls on Member States to establish one or more authorities responsible for receiving and processing compensation claims from victims of violent crimes, regardless if the crime took place in a
In almost all countries, the criminal courts can order compensation to a victim for financial losses, but an offender’s lack of income and assets affects their ability to pay the sums ordered. Most, but not all, countries have a State fund to underwrite compensation, but the sums payable are usually limited to compensation for personal injury rather than economic loss, and the amounts are often capped. Victims’ financial losses often have to be met by private insurance schemes.
The legally binding EU Framework Decision on the Standing of Victims in Criminal Procedures declares that each
- be easily accessible;
- provide victims with free emotional, social and material support before, during and after the investigation and legal proceedings;
- be fully competent to deal with the problems faced by the victims they serve;
- provide victims with information on their rights and on the services available
Victim Support Europe’s members are independent non-governmental organisations helping people to cope with the effects of crime. They provide free and confidential support and information. Victim Support also promotes and advances the rights of victims and witnesses in criminal justice and social policy development. Services offered to victims differ between countries and range from emotional support and counseling to legal advice regarding criminal compensation claims and other practical assistance to for instance installing alarms and changing locks. Please see the contact details for our member organisations, who can provide you with more information regarding their particular services.