Why people affected by crime need to know about their rights

17 February, 2020

Kate Wallace, Victim Support Scotland CEO, talks about victim and witness rights and the importance of highlighting them during Victims Awareness Week, 17 – 23 February 2020.

“You need to know your rights before you start dealing with the police, the courts and all the different agencies. When you’re in the midst of everything, you don’t get a chance to think about what sort of service you should be getting or what you are entitled to. It’s only afterwards that I had time to think things over and realise that some things could have been better.”

This quote from one someone who has experienced a serious crime, and been supported by us, demonstrates why Victims Awareness Week is so important.

Victim Support Scotland wants to make sure victims are aware of their rights, so they know everything they are entitled to, and what to expect from various criminal justice agencies.

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 support available to them.

‘Your rights, your code’ is the theme for this year’s Victims Awareness Week, taking place between 17 – 23 February as a national annual awareness week championing the voices, experiences and rights of those affected by crime in Scotland. This is the beginning of a wider campaign to make sure victims know what their rights are before they need to use them. We are calling for agencies to do more to communicate clearly with victims and witnesses to make sure all the information they are providing is accessible over the time they spend within the criminal justice system.

Throughout this week we will be promoting a series of blog posts, articles and videos from Victim Support Scotland, our partners and people who have been directly affected by crime which draw attention to the importance to knowing your rights.

We are providing people with an opportunity to tell us about their experiences of the criminal justice system. By doing so, they will help to shape the future of victim support services in Scotland, as well as champion the need for information for victims to be more accessible.

As a charity, we will celebrate our 35th birthday this August. It is important that we move with the times, and adapt our services based on victims’ needs and changing crime types, so we can still be providing the support they need for the next 35 years and beyond.

We have already started that process. At the end of last year, we revamped our website which provides easy-to-access information for victims and witnesses; and we have also introduced a new webchat facility which allows us to reach a wider range of people with our service offer including young people who sometimes feel more comfortable using technology to interact.

Victim Support Scotland is also working alongside partners in the justice and third sectors to create a ‘victim-centred’ approach, which will help to shape a future justice system and support services based on past experience of what victims have told us.

As part of Victims Awareness Week, we have submitted a motion to Parliament to raise awareness of rights and sharing experiences of crime and the criminal justice system. We will also host a Parliamentary Reception this Tuesday (18 February) to bring the voices and experiences of victims to decision makers.

It is important that victims feel empowered to exercise their rights and speak about their experiences. Only this way can expect to have real and meaningful change within a criminal justice system that puts victims first.

This blog first appeared in Third Force News.

Join in the Victims Awareness Week conversation using the hashtag: #kenyourcode or find our more on our campaign page

Share your experience and find out how to get involved here.