Call for Scots to find out about their rights and to share their experiences

17 February, 2020

Victim Support Scotland is asking people affected by crime to come forward and share their experiences of the criminal justice system. By telling their stories and providing feedback, they can help to shape the future of victim support services in Scotland, as well as influencing the criminal justice system.

The call-out comes during Victims Awareness Week, which takes place between 17 – 23 February, as a national annual awareness week championing the voices, experiences and rights of those affected by crime in Scotland. The theme for this year’s week is ‘Your rights, your code’ with the hashtag #kenyourcode.

As part of the week, we have submitted a motion to Parliament to recognise the week’s aims to raise awareness of rights and to encourage people to share their experiences of the criminal justice system. We are also holding a Parliamentary Reception on Tuesday 18 February to bring voices and experiences to decision-makers.

People in Scotland have certain rights under Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 as set out in the Victims’ Code for Scotland, which also explains how people can exercise these rights and the support available to them.

Most people affected by crime are unaware of many of their rights when engaging with the criminal justice system. Agencies and services need to do much more to inform people of their rights to ensure that both information and processes are clear and accessible.

Following a serious sexual assault, Jamie*, aged 25 from Glasgow, was supported by Victim Support Scotland and commented:

“Sharing your experience, should help make positive change. When it comes to my own experience of the criminal justice system, I didn’t feel I had a voice.

“I’ve spent more time talking about my experience for the sake of people affected by crimes similar to my own, bypassing the fact that the system was part of what made my experience not okay.

“I would urge anyone with an experience of crime to share this experience, as it will help create a better justice system for Scotland.”

Kate Wallace, CEO of Victim Support Scotland, comments: 

“We want all victims and witnesses to know about their rights as soon as they have experienced a crime.  Agencies and services must do more to communicate clearly with victims and witnesses to ensure they are fully informed of their rights and that they receive timely information in a way that they can understand.

“We can all only improve if we encourage people to share their experiences of crime, the criminal justice system and the support services they have used. This opens-up the chance for this experience to be heard by decision-makers, allowing positive change to take place that puts victims and their families first.

“This year marks Victim Support Scotland’s 35th anniversary as a charity providing services across Scotland in the courts and in the community. We know all too well how difficult the experience of the criminal justice system can be for victims, and we hope through gathering these personal experiences that we can make things better for some of the Scotland’s most vulnerable victims and their families.”

There are many different ways people affected by crime can share their experiences with Victim Support Scotland: anonymously, individually, or in groups. Victim Support Scotland welcomes any involvement, from sharing experiences of crime or providing feedback on support services, to helping develop new services.

Victim Support Scotland is the leading charity dedicated to helping people affected by crime. There is a Victim Support office in every local authority in Scotland.

Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, comments:

“We recognise that having to engage with the criminal justice system can be a challenging and traumatic experience for victims and witnesses. We want to ensure that a victim-centred approach, developed and backed by partners, can improve the way we communicate, support and treat victims throughout their contact with the system.

“To this end, the Victims Taskforce is bringing together senior decision-makers from justice agencies and the voluntary sector, including those who directly represent victims. The Taskforce is working to make sure the voices of victims are heard, and that their experiences with the justice system improve.

“I welcome Victim Support Scotland’s call for victims to share their experiences, as this will help us make long-lasting improvements to the justice system which will directly benefit victims.”

*Please note that Jamie’s name has been changed to protect his identity.