Campaign launches to support more victims of crime – press release

20 February, 2024

A new campaign launches today to raise awareness of victims’ rights and peoples’ right to access support and information if they are affected by crime.

As part of Victims Awareness Week, Victim Support Scotland (VSS) is working with Police Scotland and other partner organisations to ensure victims’ rights are upheld and to inform people about the free information and support it provides, helping victims and witnesses of crime navigate the criminal justice system and cope with the trauma and emotional distress of crime.

The latest available data shows that 10,352 people contacted the charity’s free helpline – some of whom will have been provided information by Police Scotland and other partner organisations, and others will have taken their own steps to contact the charity directly – with around 48,600 support sessions and other forms of assistance delivered by VSS in 2022-23. During the same period, the total number of crimes recorded by Police Scotland stood at 289,362.

Following a change in data protection legislation in May 2018, Police Scotland can no longer automatically refer, victims and witnesses to receive the support they are entitled to, without their consent. The unintended consequence of this legislation has resulted in around 90% fewer people affected by crime being referred to VSS. This is equivalent to more than 90,000 people who could be missing out on support.

According to the charity, there is a significant gap between the number of crimes recorded by Police Scotland, and the number of people referred to the charity for support.

Through the Victims’ Code for Scotland, everyone has a legal right to support if they are a victim or witness of crime, as do their family members. To help spread this message and ensure no one who is affected by crime in Scotland falls through the cracks, Victim Support Scotland is raising public awareness of victims’ rights and the services they are entitled to.

When someone is affected by crime, it can have a massive impact on their life, affecting them emotionally, mentally, physically, financially and practically. It can be very traumatic, so having the right information at the right time is critical.

In Scotland, anyone affected by crime has a right to support and information, regardless of whether the crime was reported to the police or not. While not everyone affected by crime will want to exercise these rights, there is a gap between the number of crimes recorded and the number of people referred to and seeking support.

By working closely with Police Scotland, victim support organisations, and directly with victims, we hope to raise more awareness of victims’ rights and reach more people in the year ahead. We want everyone to know that if they or someone they know is affected by crime, Victim Support Scotland can help

Kate Wallace, VSS Chief Executive

Faroque Hussain, Chief Superintendent at Police Scotland, said: “We understand how distressing it is when someone is a victim of crime, and we are here to support you. We will provide you with a victim care card which will include the name of the officer dealing with your case and information about your rights including access to support services. If you want us to refer you directly then we can do that.

“Police Scotland is committed to supporting victims and survivors and will ensure you are kept updated on the progress of your case. We will also explain how we will deal with your case and what we may ask you to do to help us.

“Depending on the circumstances of the crime we will consider your needs and try to ensure those needs are met, and if necessary, work with our relevant partner agencies. We would always encourage anyone who has been the victim of crime or who is a witness to crime, to seek the support of Victim Support Scotland.”

In addition to providing support, the charity also uses the experiences and voices of victims and has welcomed aspects of the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Kate Wallace, added: “Based on our knowledge and expertise, built on the experiences of people affected by crime, we believe this Bill is an opportunity to radically improve the way the justice system works for people affected by crime.

“It is important for people thinking about getting support from us to know will treat you with dignity and respect and ensure that you are part of the process that reforms our justice system. The services we provide are informed and shaped by the experiences of thousands of people affected by crime. And through that, together, we are working to make Scotland better for victims, witnesses and their families in the future.”

Minister for Victims and Community Safety, Siobhian Brown, said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that victims affected by crime get all the support they need. It is important that victims are made aware of, and understand, their rights and know how to access the range of support that is available. The Victims’ Code for Scotland sets out these rights and who to contact for help and advice.

“The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act, introduced in 2014, built victims’ rights into legislation and the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill will further strengthen these rights.”

Victim Support Scotland data shows that over 40,000 support sessions in court and in the community were provided by the charity in 2022-23, including 850 court familiarisation visits for victims or witnesses ahead of a trial taking place.

VSS supports anyone affected by a crime, no matter what it is or when it happened. The service is free and confidential and designed to assist people who have been directly or indirectly affected by crime, helping them to see life beyond what they have experienced.

Victims Awareness Week takes please from Monday 19 to Sunday 25 February 2024, and coincides with European Day for Victims on Thursday 22 February 2024.