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Discover your rights as a victim or witness

On the European Day for the Victims of Crime Linsay Scullion, Learning & Development Officer, writes about the importance of knowing your rights as someone affected by crime.

The Scottish criminal justice system can be quite confusing for people who are suddenly the victim of a crime. In fact, in the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2016/17 61% of adults said they did not know a lot about the criminal justice system and another 16% said they knew nothing at all.

This statistic isn’t surprising and I suspect that unless you have had direct experience of the Scottish criminal justice system either personally or professionally it’s likely that what you think you know is informed by TV crime dramas set in England and blockbuster films set in the USA.

The Scottish judicial system has been around since the early Middle Ages and is independent from the system in England and Wales. There are quite a few differences between the two systems, for instance, in Scotland and accused person can be found guilty, not guilty or not proven, only the guilty or not guilty verdicts are available in England.

Rather than asking people to pay money to be granted bail as in the USA, in Scotland bail decisions are based on the accused risk to the public and their risk of absconding rather than taking money as a bond.

Anyone can be affected by crime at any time. Without warning people can find themselves face to face with a criminal justice system they don’t understand. Nobody plans to be affected by crime.

Whilst individuals and communities are reeling from the physical, emotional and practical impact of crime they must often also become experts in the criminal justice system and this can be an unbearable. Often they are not aware of their rights as victims or witnesses and so are unable exercise them.

Victims and witnesses have the right to:

  • Information
  • Participation
  • Protection
  • Support
  • Compensation
  • Expenses

So if you would have answered the question at the top of this blog with ‘not a lot’ or ‘nothing at all’ check out the Victims Code for Scotland to find out about your rights or read our short information page. .

Remember that Victim Support Scotland is always here to answer questions about the criminal justice system and going to court. We can also help you find out about your rights and support you to exercise them. If you need us, call our new free helpline 0800 160 1985.


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