VULNERABLE WITNESSES ACT IMPLEMENTATION STEERING GROUP EQUIPMENT AND ACCOMMODATION SUB-GROUP
Wednesday 3 November 2004, Conference room E, St Andrew's House, Edinburgh
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1. Welcome and introductions
Paul Smart (Chair) SEJD Victims and Witnesses unit
Margaret Allison, SEJD Victims and Witnesses unit
Lindsay Anderson, COPFS
Robert Gordon, SCS
Alistair Mackie ACPOS
Bill Moore, SEJD Victims and Witnesses unit
Frances Roberts, SCRA
Frank Russell, VSS
Claudine Persaud (Secretary) SEJD Victims and Witnesses unit
Allan Girvan, SCS
Ron Lancashire, ADSW
2. Minutes of last meeting
3. Matters arising
Discussions between SCS and SE
- The group were informed that discussions between the Scottish Court Service and the Scottish Executive had taken place and were ongoing regarding the matter of the responsibility for identifying and running remote sites. As a result of these discussions the following conclusions had been reached.
- Both SCS and SE had agreed to draw up the Technical Specification and the Standards for a Remote Site together
- Once produced, both of these pieces of work would be endorsed by SCS and ultimately adopted as a framework from which SCS would operate.
- SCS would not automatically assume operational or management responsibility for a remote location and that the owner of the location may in fact be required to assume this responsibility.
- The group agreed that the matter of responsibility for remote sites would require further discussion and agreed that the Technical Specification and the Standards would require to be agreed first.
- SCS drew the group's attention to the fact that the specifications and standards for the Bonomy work may be relevant (i.e. provision of room for victims to view 'live-feed' of trial proceedings).
- It was agreed that the integrity of a remote location would be incorporated as an important theme when developing the standards. Full application of the standards would then ensure integrity.
- Discussion arose around the requirement for fixed dedicated sites around centres of population. It was agreed that such sites would be desirable, but it was highlighted that there would still be a need for sites across Scotland, to meet the need for some flexibility required by the act.
- VSS told the group that they had found possibly suitable locations at their offices in Inverness, Falkirk, Stirling, the external witness service Linlithgow and also perhaps Stirling.
- SCS to provide group with specifications and standards for the Bonomy work
- The group agreed that an assessment of the meeting of costs (for technology, installation, operation, site charges etc.) would need to be carried out. The preparation of the technical specification and accommodation standards would begin this process by identifying what would be required and what costs might be associated with their provision. Clarification on who would be responsible for the costs of phase 1 would be required before April 2005. The group agreed that thereafter the situation regarding costs would be reassessed using the knowledge of the cost profile gathered in phase 1.
- The group felt that it was important that parties in actions were not made to carry the costs as this would ultimately result in people not applying for special measures. Ambiguity about who was responsible for costs could result in the same scenario.
Monitoring and evaluation
The group agreed that SE would draw up a specification of work for the Monitoring and evaluation work theme in time for the next meeting of the group which would then be circulated for comments and clearance.
- Victims &Witnesses unit to draft specification.
4. Vulnerable Witnesses Act - Field Officer - Paper (VWEA-06-04)
Field officer remit circulated
- The group discussed the remit and the fact that the field officer would not only be tasked with finding existing sites suitable for use as remote locations, but would also be mapping the general state of readiness of organisations through a questionnaire (VWEA 08).
- It was agreed that a visit to the Victim Support run remote site in Leicester would be useful for the field officer at that the specification for that site and the service level agreement would be of interest to the group.
- Group to email comments on VWEA-06-04 to the Victims & Witnesses unit by Monday 8 November
- Requested that group members make colleagues aware that field officer may visit.
- Field officer to request Specification and Service Level Agreement from Leicester remote site.
Paper VWEA-08-04 Questionnaire
- The paper was issued to the group along with a list of who the questionnaire would be sent to. The group discussed the relevance of the questionnaire for national organisations who had not necessarily cascaded any information about the Act to their local offices. For this reason the ability of local offices' ability to complete the questionnaire was questioned. It was agreed that each national organisation would be tasked with adding a paragraph to the questionnaire covering letter highlighting this issue and reassuring recipients that they should only fill in what they could and that there would be training from central offices prior to commencement of the Act. It was agreed that the questionnaires would be issued as soon as possible in order to map the current state of readiness and then would be reissued in a few months to measure any improvements.
- Discussions arose about the relevance of sending the questionnaire to the police and it was agreed that the matter would be discussed further in advance of any issue to them.
- Group to supply paragraph for covering letter to the field officer by Monday 8 November.
5. Technical specification - SCS to report
- Technical specification unavailable but to be supplied at the next meeting with the addition of indications of likely costs where possible.
- SCS to supply technical specification and costs.
6. Standards for remote locations - Paper (VWEA-07-04)
- It was explained that this paper was drafted by capturing past discussions of the sub-group and main steering groups, using existing specifications for work and through information gathered by meeting with SCS. This paper is to form the framework or outline for final full set of standards.
- It was highlighted that the paper covered key issues around a location being fit for purpose and it was agreed that some locations may not be fit for both purposes (live CCTV link and giving evidence on commission)
- The group discussed the fact that any accommodation would have to be spacious and have the degree of flexibility required to meet exceptional circumstances.
- The subject of civil and other types of commissions were raised. It was agreed that they should be considered and that any guidance produced shouldn't overwhelm or override the existing systems in place and working well for these other types of commissions.
- Discussions arose around what form the accreditation of the remote site would take and who would accredit the site. It was agreed that input from the judicial studies committee would be beneficial and that the matter required further discussion.
- Group to comment on document by Friday 12 November.
- It was proposed that a drafting group be formed to progress the work on standards for remote sites by using group member's experience. SCS, Witness Service, SCRA and the field officer agreed to be on the drafting group. Agreed that that input and approval of the standards by the Law Society, Faculty of Advocates and children 1 st would be valuable.
- Field officer to invite group to meet.
7. AOB - None
8. Next meeting - To be agreed
Victims and Witnesses Unit
3 November 2004