2023 – look back
In January our chief executive gave evidence to the Criminal Justice Committee at the Scottish Parliament highlighting concerns around the Bail and Release from Custody (Scotland) Bill.
The proposed legislation would repeal Section 23D of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, which sets out a presumption against bail for those accused of violent, sexual, and/or domestic abuse offences in solemn proceedings, where they have a previous conviction of a similar nature.
With the proposal to remove Section 23D from the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, we highlighted the impact this could have on victims’ safety.
Our Chief Executive, Kate Wallace, said at the time: “We see every day the impact of crime on people we support. Our line is clear in that we asked MSPs not to vote for the Bail and Release from Custody (Scotland) Bill if Section 23D is removed. Section 23D is hugely important and serves as an additional safeguard in relation to gender-based offending.
“The safety of victims should be at the heart of any decision to release a person on bail. The removal of this restriction and reliance on the new all-encompassing bail test does little to show victims of these types of crime that their safety is being protected under the law.”
In February we launched our new volunteer recruitment campaign, complete with a television advert and social media marketing.
Titled, It’s what we do for one another, we successfully recruited a number of volunteers throughout Scotland.
During the Victims’ Awareness Week Campaign, we also highlighted the stories of the people we support, raised awareness of our services and encouraged anyone affected by crime to seek support.
You can watch the video by clicking below:
In March we highlighted International Women’s Day, raising awareness of our services for the women and girls who have been affected by domestic abuse and violence.
We shared our Emergency Assistance Fund impact report, which helps to financially support women and girls who are fleeing violence or domestic abuse.
In April 2023 we took our HUSH! Project to Edinburgh. Firstly showcasing at Scottish Parliament, we then held an exhibition at Whitespace Studios in the city.
The HUSH! Project is a multimedia exhibition created by people who have been affected by murder and culpable homicide. Together they have curated pieces which represent the journey they have been on after losing a family member to violence.
You can read more about the HUSH! Project by clicking here.
In April we also marked the launch of the new Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill. The new legislation proposes an end to the Not Proven verdict, implementation of trauma-informed practices across the justice system, and a pilot of single judge trials for the prosecution of serious sexual offences.
Our chief executive, Kate Wallace, has since given evidence on several occasions relating to different aspects of the bill which affect victims and witnesses.
At the time, Kate Wallace said: “We welcome the introduction of the Criminal Justice Reform Bill. This piece of legislation has been advocated by people affected by crime for many years.
“The Not Proven verdict is unique to the Scottish justice system, leaving many victims, witnesses and their families without the conclusive answer to move forward with their lives, and we welcome plans to remove this verdict.
“People affected by crime have also told us that the criminal justice system is just as, if not more, traumatising than the crime itself. We fully support the implementation of trauma-informed practices, that will help to build trust, offer choice, and empower people to take control of their own situation.
“Finally, we do not believe the current system of trial by jury is suitable for the prosecution of serious sexual offences. The Mock Jury research highlighted it is difficult for a jury to understand complex legal arguments and matters of law. We would support the recommendation of a pilot for single judge led trials, and have the confidence that the knowledge and experience of the judiciary will lead to a more just outcome for survivors of sexual offences.
“We look forward to continue to working closely with the Scottish Government in the development of this bill.”
In May, we attended the launch of the Trauma-Informed Framework, which was chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Angela Constance.
The trauma-informed framework has been directly developed following discussions at the Scottish Government’s Victims’ Taskforce. Driven by the lived experience of people who have been affected by crime, the framework has been rightly recognised as a key priority to improve victims’ experiences of the Criminal Justice System.
Many victims tell us that giving evidence and experience of the criminal justice system can be as traumatising as the crime itself. The implementation of a trauma-informed framework throughout the justice system can make a huge difference for many when giving evidence in court.
Following the launch of the HUSH! Project in Edinburgh and the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, we had a number of MSPs visit our offices throughout Scotland.
In July we launched a new referral pilot with Tayside Police.
The pilot, which builds on the strong partnership between the organisat
ions, will see police officers making more victims of crime aware of the support they are entitled to.
Research has shown that many members of the public are not aware of their right to support services following a crime despite this being a fundamental part of Scotland’s Victims’ Code, which ensures Police Scotland continue to meet key standards of service.
The pilot aims to increase awareness of services offered by Victim Support Scotland as well as public confidence in the police and the justice system in Tayside.
In July we also hosted a stall at Pride in Glasgow, where we highlighted the support offered to people who have been affected by crime that are part of the LGBTQi+ community.
In August we welcomed the Minister for Victims and Community Safety, Siobhian Brown to our offices in Granite House. The Minister met several volunteers and staff who spoke about how they support victims and witnesses. She also tried out our new Court Immersive Experience, which we will be rolling out throughout courts in Scotland.
In September, VSS volunteers Ralph, Margot, Helen and Imogen we’re welcomed visitors to Glasgow High Court for Doors Open Day.It was great to see such a good turnout, and be able to share about the building itself and the services we provide.
In October, we were delighted to welcome the Princess Royal to our offices in Glasgow. Her Royal Highness spoke with staff, viewed our immersive court experience, witnessed a live link to Glasgow High Court, spoke with volunteers and met a family who had been affected by murder.
All photos by Julie Broadfoot Photgraphy.
In October we also sponsored the annual Moira Run, which raises money for the Moira Fund in memory of Moira Jones who was murdered in Queens Park, Glasgow.
We had several family members who have been bereaved by crime take part, as well as staff and volunteers.
In November, we marked 16 Days of Action against gender-based violence by raising awareness of our services for anyone who has been affected by violence and domestic abuse.
The VSS team in Aberdeen took part in Reclaim the Night, a march to improve women’s safety throughout Scotland.
In December we published our Annual Report and Accounts, which can be viewed by clicking here.