Improving victims' experiences of the justice system: consultation

The consultation seeks views on potential reforms to empower and protect victims of crime, with particular reference to sexual offences. It takes forward the work of the Victims Taskforce and recommendations from Lady Dorrian’s Review which do, or may, require a legislative underpinning.

Ministerial foreword

Earlier this year I launched the Scottish Government's Vision for Justice in Scotland. The Vision is a wide-ranging and progressive strategy which details our priorities to deliver a transformed justice system that is fit for purpose in the 21st century and at the heart of a just, safe and resilient Scotland.

The Vision sets out our aim for a justice system that is trusted, modern, smart and effective. A system with trauma-informed practice and person-centred approaches embedded within it so that - no matter how a person comes into contact with it - they are treated as individuals, listened to, their needs met and their rights respected.

We must be bold and ambitious in our plans to deliver the transformational change necessary to achieve our Vision for Justice. Our Programme for Government sets out the range and extent of the action we will take over the parliamentary session.

We are already making progress. Earlier this year we consulted on proposals to change the way we use custody, with a view to reducing Scotland's prison population by providing more opportunities for rehabilitation and improved support for those who offend, while keeping public safety and protection for victims at the centre of any reforms.

We are also acting to ensure faster, fairer and more effective justice by modernising the system. A consultation on potential reforms to Scotland's three verdict system - which also considered the issue of corroboration - concluded in March, and we are committed to a review of court structures including sentencing powers.

This consultation is a key part of this far-reaching programme of work. It focuses specifically on proposed legislative reforms to improve victims' experiences of the justice system, with particular reference to victims of sexual offences. It takes forward our Programme for Government commitments to introduce a statutory right to anonymity for complainers in sexual offence cases, establish a Victims' Commissioner and carefully consider the recommendations from Lady Dorrian's review into the management of sexual offence cases that require a legislative basis to deliver.

We know that victims of crime should be heard and be provided with information in an accessible and timely manner; that they should feel safe and have confidence in the structures that are designed to protect them; and that they should be treated with compassion, at every stage of their journey through the justice process and beyond.

We recognise, however, that there are times when the person can be lost among the system's formalities and technical processes. We also know that the justice system can be particularly challenging and disempowering for victims and survivors of sexual violence.

The Scottish Government is committed to improving victims' experiences of the justice system by putting them at its centre. To do this we will work collaboratively and innovatively with Scotland's justice agencies. And we will listen to people with lived experience - victims, survivors, families, support services, practitioners – in order to learn what we can do better and inform how this can be done.

This consultation provides you with a valuable opportunity to help shape how important changes - which are part of a wider programme of reform - can be delivered in order to ensure that we have a truly person-centred and trauma-informed justice system that the people of Scotland can have confidence in.

Keith Brown

Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans



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