Delivering better support for victims of crime.
A new expert group will begin work within weeks to improve support, advice and information for victims of crime, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has announced.
The Victims Taskforce will meet on 12 December for the first time to drive forward work that ensures victims' voices are heard and streamline their journey through the justice system.
Co-chaired by the Justice Secretary and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, head of Scotland's system of criminal prosecution, the taskforce will bring together senior decision-makers from justice agencies, the legal profession, academia and the voluntary sector, including direct representation of victims.
Mr Yousaf said:
"While the long-term fall in crime over the last decade means fewer people fall prey to criminals in Scotland, where anyone is a victim it is essential the justice system and wider public services provide the best possible support and advice to them and their loved-ones.
"As part of our work to further improve the experience of victims and witnesses through the justice system, we are investing £17.9 million this year through charities and other agencies working to support victims.
"I am pleased the taskforce will be gathering in a matter of weeks to begin its vital work. This work will be directly informed by victims' experiences and will play a key role in the delivery of our commitments to ensure victims' voices are heard throughout the justice system."
The Lord Advocate said:
"The provision of appropriate and meaningful support to the victims of crime is part of a modern criminal justice system. Prosecutors can only do their job of delivering justice if victims and witnesses are willing to come forward and give evidence.
"The Taskforce represents an opportunity to improve the experience of victims, to reassure them that the system will provide support and give them confidence to come forward, speak up and make sure their voices are heard."
The first meeting of the Taskforce - which it is intended will meet on a quarterly basis - will be in Edinburgh.
Commitments made in the 2018-19 Programme for Government, include:
- Funding a new Homicide case support service
- Reducing and where possible eliminating the need for victims to have to retell their story to different organisations as they look for help
- Ensuring victims and their families have greater understanding of prisoner release arrangements
- Consulting by the end of 2018 on ways to increase the openness and transparency of the parole system
- Expanding, by early 2019, the types of offences where victims may tell the court how the crime has affected them physically, emotionally and financially
- Improving the experience of rape and sexual assault victims in the justice system
- Publishing a Restorative Justice Action Plan by Spring 2019, outlining plans to support engagement, where appropriate, between victims and offender.
The Taskforce will look at a range of different options to improve support for victims of crime. This will also include exploring the case for a Victims Commissioner, which was last considered by Parliament during the passage of the Victims and Witness (Scotland) Act 2014.
Further information about policies and projects to improve the experience for victims and witnesses in Scotland is available on the Scottish Government website.
The 2016-17 Scottish Crime & Justice Survey, which includes incidents not reported to police, indicated that crime in Scotland has fallen by around a third since 2008-09, while more people than ever feel safe in their local area. Similarly, the proportion of adults experiencing crime fell from around one in five in 2008-09 to fewer than one in seven in 2016-17.