Recent Legislation Improves the Criminal Justice System for Victims and Witnesses
Victims and Witnesses Bill
The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament on December 12, 2013, bringing about the most important legislative reform in the treatment of victims and witnesses for a generation. The Bill received Royal Assent on January 17, 2014, creating the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014.
Its adoption marks the successful conclusion of an important campaign carried out by Victim Support Scotland to influence the formation of the legislation and to strengthen and protect its provisions during the parliamentary process.
The main provisions of the legislation include:
- A victim surcharge, paid for by offenders, to give immediate support and assistance to victims of crime
- Giving victims and witnesses the right to request certain information about their case
- Creating a duty for justice organisations to set clear standards of service for victims and witnesses
- Setting a presumption that witnesses in cases involving sexual offences, domestic abuse, stalking and human trafficking are vulnerable and have the right to use special measures when giving evidence at court
- Allowing victims to make oral representations to the Parole Board in relation to the release of life sentence prisoners through the Victim Notification Scheme
- The setting up of a National Confidential Forum for people abused in institutional care as children.
Work Will Continue
Victim Support Scotland continues to work closely with criminal justice agencies to ensure continued improvements for victims and witnesses and to monitor the practical implications of such legislative changes.
We believe that this marks the beginning of significant change in how people affected by crime are treated by the criminal justice system and will continue to campaign for a system that can limit the impact on victims and witnesses. For more information on our current campaigns, please visit other parts of the Campaigning section of our website.