Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill: child rights and wellbeing impact assessment (CRWIA)

This impact assessment considers how the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill will affect children’s rights and wellbeing. It records the research, analysis and engagement that has taken place in respect of this and how this has informed the development of the Bill.

Annex – Summary of evidence used in the CRWIA

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) found that the likelihood of being a victim of any crime decreases with age; just under one-fifth (18.3%) of 16- to 24-year-olds were a victim of crime in 2018/19, compared with 6.9% of those aged 60 or over.[2]

The likelihood of being a victim of sexual crime also differed for different age groups. Over half (54.6%) of victims of serious sexual assault experienced their first (or only) incident between the ages of 16 and 20. 17.5% were aged 21-25, and 10.7% were aged 26-30. The proportion of those who responded to the SCJS who had experienced less serious sexual assault both since the age of 16 and in the 12 months prior to interview decreased with age, although there was no statistically significant difference between the two youngest age groups (16 to 24 and 25 to 44) when looking at experiences since the age of 16.[3]

Serious sexual assault - looking at age and gender combined, the SCJS found 8.1% of females aged 16-24 had experienced a serious sexual assault since the age of 16, which is significantly more than for females age 60 + (3.4%). In the last 12 months 2.5% of young females aged 16-24 experienced a serious sexual assault, which is a significantly higher proportion than for women of older ages.[4]

Less serious sexual assault - looking at age and gender combined, the SCJS found that the proportion of females in the youngest age group, 16-24, who had experienced less serious sexual assault since the age of 16 was significantly higher (22.6%) than for women age 60+ (9.8%). In the last 12 months, 11.2% of females aged 16-24 experienced less serious sexual assault, which is significantly higher than for women in all other age groups (2.6% for females age 25-44, 1.2% for females age 45-59 and 0.1% for females age 60+).[5]

Recorded crime in Scotland statistics

At least 39% of sexual offences recorded by police in 2018-19 related to a victim under 18.[6]

At least 31% of sexual offences recorded by police in 2020-21 related to a victim under 16.[7]

Scottish Health Survey

The Scottish Health Survey 2019 found that the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse adverse childhood experience (ACE) was higher among women than among men (10% and 4% respectively), also highlighting intersectionality between age and sex in relation to sexual offences victims.[9]

Briefings, studies and research

An estimated 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused and over a third of all police-recorded sexual offences are against children. Girls and older children are more likely to experience sexual abuse.[9]

Children with a learning disability are at greater risk of experiencing physical, emotional and sexual abuse.[10]

'Suffering in silence: children and unreported crime', a 2014 report on the hidden victimisation of children and young people by Victim Support/ University of Bedfordshire found that children and young people in England and Wales experience much higher rates of crime than police data suggests.[11]

In a report by the Everyday Heroes Participation Programme, children and young people with experience of gender-based violence or abuse identified a need for changes to justice processes to make them more child-friendly and reduce trauma. These included a more personalised, victim-centred approach, more accessible communication, fixed times for giving evidence, access to support from a known and trusted person, and a more comfortable court environment.[12]

A meta-analysis has found that child witnesses and victims of violence develop rates of PTSD 'similar to the rates of combat soldiers returning from war' – the overall rate was 15.9%, but among girls exposed to interpersonal trauma it rose to 32.9%.[13]

A small New Zealand study conducted with complainers under 18, and parents of complainers under 18, in sexual offence cases identified a range of factors that contributed to young people's distress in court, and factors that could contribute to a more positive experience. Factors that contributed to distress included delays to trials, and finding cross-examination confusing and stressful.[14]

A report by the Youth Justice Legal Centre has highlighted that the experience of waiting for trial as an accused can be particularly disruptive children impacting on their mental and emotional health as well as on educational attainment which may affect them in the longer terms becoming more pronounced the longer it takes for a case to come to trial. The Report highlighted that this was even more pronounced for those who are held on remand which the report described as 'extremely damaging for children'.[15]

A report by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research highlighted that children of those who have experienced serious violence can be impacted by the trial process in light of their age and the proportion of their lives spent with a parent involved in criminal proceedings, and who may be called to give evidence in court.[16]

Power Up / Power Down - a partnership project between Scottish Women's Aid and the Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland - highlights the need to improve the family court process for children and young people.[17]

Scotland's national action plan to prevent and eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) notes that "FGM reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.[18]

A scoping study carried out by the Scottish Refugee Council, 'Tackling Female Genital Mutilation in Scotland, A Scottish Model of Intervention' reports – "UNICEF estimates that more than 125 million women and girls in 29 countries around the world are affected by FGM today, with some 83 million survivors in Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sudan alone (UNICEF 2013, pp.2-3). Reported prevalence rates vary dramatically across - and sometimes within - countries. The highest reported prevalence rates are found in Somalia (98%), Guinea (96%), Djibouti (93%), and Egypt (91%), where FGM is near universal. In 50% of practising countries, girls undergo FGM before the age of five years old; in the remainder, most FGM is carried out on girls aged 5-14 years old (UNICEF 2013, pp.2-3)".[19]

Research by Dr Andrew Tickell's that focuses specifically on legislating for a right of anonymity for complainers of sexual offences, where the approach to children is explored as part of the discussion.[20] [21]

HM Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland report that includes data relating to applications relevant to the provisions on independent legal representation.[22]

Paper produced for the Victims' Taskforce that highlights "the specific circumstances - and potential added challenges - that some groups encountered in aiming to be heard was also highlighted within some feedback, for example, as children affected by crime, or bereaved relatives of victims, or people who have been impacted by certain crime types".[23]



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