Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill
Victim Support Scotland welcomes the historic Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, launched on Wednesday 26 April by First Minister Humza Yousaf MSP along with Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs, Angela Constance MSP.
Victim Support Scotland was delighted to participate in a roundtable discussion held by the First Minister with victims and survivors to allow them to provide initial feedback on the Bill.
It was a significant moment for campaigners who attended, many of whom have dedicated years of their lives fighting for these reforms.
The Bill contains provisions which have the potential to radically improve victims and witnesses’ experiences of the criminal justice system. This includes:
- Abolishing the Not Proven verdict
- The establishment of a Victims’ and Witnesses Commissioner for Scotland
- Introducing a pilot scheme for juryless trials in sexual offence cases
- Embeds trauma-informed practice in criminal and civil courts
- Increases the availability of special measures for vulnerable witnesses and parties in civil court proceedings
We will soon be giving feedback on this Bill through a consultation.
We welcome and encourage people to share their experiences through this consultation. Please email: getinvolved @victimsupport.sco.uk or visit our page on sharing your experiences.
We welcome the introduction of the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill. The proposals in the Bill are far reaching and have been driven by years of campaigning by people affected by crime.
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 representing the views of people affected by crime in Scotland and will work closely with the Scottish Government as this Bill progresses through Parliament.