Letter of Rights - operational delivery working group minutes: September 2021

Minutes of the Operational Delivery Group meeting held on 29 September 2021.


Attendees and apologies

  • Scottish Government – Access to Justice Team
  • Scottish Government – Victims and Witnesses Unit
  • Law Society of Scotland
  • PDSO
  • Police Scotland
  • COPFS
  • Scottish Government – Police Division

Items and actions

Meeting commenced

The Minute of the last meeting was agreed subject to some amendments required to provide more clarity at particular points of the Minute. A brief update was provided on work undertaken following the last meeting of the Group.

Action 1: Law Society of Scotland to share suggested amendments to the Minute with the Group, which would then be agreed by email circulation. 

Discussion on the content and format of any new Letter of Rights

It was noted in the draft Letter of Rights for Children that terminology should refer to “Responsible Adult” as opposed to “Appropriate Adult” and this would need to be amended. 

Action 2: SG to review and amend draft letter of Rights for Children as appropriate. 

It was suggested that a suite of letters would further complicate delivery of the Letter of Rights given that an existing alternate version was already under-utilised. It was supported that core information be delivered visually, i.e. as a video version of Letter of Rights that should be played on a loop or wall stencilling in custody suites. The group was in broad agreement that a single Easy Read version of the Letter of Rights was the preferred approach for delivery.

In terms of language to be used, the Group was in agreement that the target age of comprehension needed to understand the content of the Letter of Rights should be around 12 years old. The language should be simple, given the vulnerable nature of the intended audience, while making sure that it is not condescending. It was considered that it may be beneficial to engage with an external organisation with specialism in making communication content accessible. 

Further discussions on the best format of the letter concluded that this should be a focused summary in large print, highlighting the important information on the 1st page. 

In the context of arrested persons being able to make an informed choice in regards to their defence, there was a further discussion on whether the Letter of Rights should advise on exercising the rights included in the letter or just simply providing the information. The consensus was that the purpose here was to ensure people could exercise their rights, not simply be aware of them, and there should be more emphasis on the right to have a solicitor, with a suggestion that this be included at the top of the letter. 

The Group was asked to consider whether any information needed to be added or removed from the Letter of Rights. It was considered that the document was sufficiently populated to comply with legal obligations under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016. The Group was asked if information should be included about the right to complain. The Group mainly agreed that whilst informing the arrested person about the right to complain is an important aspect of a custody stay, this should not be included in the letter of rights due to concerns relating to the length and the purpose of the letter. 

AOB

Indicative timescales for making recommendations to the Minister were discussed. The Group agreed that it would be helpful if a timeline of the Letter of Rights work over the next few months could be circulated, including a joint meeting of the Accessibility Group with the Group

Action 3: SG to share draft project plans for Letter of Rights. 

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