Making Justice Work for Victims and Witnesses

Analysis of Consultation Responses on Victims and Witnesses Bill

2 Introduction


2.1 The Scottish Strategy for Victims was published in 2001 and set out an action plan based on three core principles; that victims should be provided with generic and case specific information; that they should receive appropriate support; and that they should have their voice heard. Subsequently in 2005 the National Standards for Victims of Crime set out the level of service that victims and witnesses should expect in their dealings with the criminal justice and children's hearing systems.

2.2 Much of the work on witnesses in recent years has focused on implementing the Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2004, phased in between 2005 and 2008; and providing greater focus on the needs of witnesses when giving evidence.

2.3 The Scottish Government is planning to introduce a Victims and Witnesses Bill, to improve the support available to victims and witnesses and in May 2012 issued a consultation to obtain views on a number of proposals to improve the experience of such individuals.

The consultation

2.4 The consultation contained 54 questions in relation to a number of key proposals:

  • Introducing a victim surcharge so that offenders pay towards the cost of supporting victims;
  • Requiring the courts to consider compensation in every case where a victim has suffered injury, loss or distress;
  • Creating a duty on relevant public agencies to set clear standards of service for victims and witnesses;
  • Creating an automatic right to special measures for victims in cases involving sexual offences and domestic abuse;
  • Commissioning a feasibility study into how the SG can provide much better information for victims and the public about specific cases;
  • Improving the way cases are managed so that victims and witnesses can have far greater confidence that, where they are required to give evidence, the case will go ahead on the day as planned;
  • Victims should be able to make oral representations to a member of the Parole Board so that they can contribute effectively to decisions about parole for criminals subject to life sentences.

Responses to the consultation

2.5 The Scottish Government received 77 responses to this consultation; 59 from organisations and 18 from individuals. Responses were assigned to sub-groups for analysis purposes. These sub-groups are shown in the following table.

Table 1.1 Consultation responses

Sub-group Number
Police organisation 6
Local Authority 17
Public Body 10
Voluntary / 3rd sector organisation 20
Legal organisation 3
Other organisation 3
Individual 18
Total 77

Analysis and reporting

2.6 Comments given at each question were examined and key themes, similar issues raised or comments made in a number of responses, were identified. In addition, we looked for sub-themes such as reasons for opinions, specific examples or explanations, alternative suggestions or other related comments.

2.7 Where possible, we looked at whether consultees said they agreed or disagreed with the specific proposals; however as not all consultees replied using the consultation questionnaire, it was not possible to ascertain support or disagreement for all consultees; this should be borne in mind when reading any figures mentioned in the reporting.

2.8 The key themes were looked at in relation to sub-groups (individuals and organisation types) to ascertain whether any particular theme was specific to one particular group, or whether it appeared in responses across groups.

2.9 When reading sub-group differences, it must be also borne in mind that where a specific opinion has been identified in relation to a particular group or groups, this does not indicate that other groups do not share this opinion, but rather that they have simply not commented on that particular point. In addition, the numbers in the organisation sub-groups were too small to allow for any meaningful conclusions to be drawn.

2.10 While the consultation gave all those who wished to comment an opportunity to do so, given the self-selecting nature of this type of exercise, any figures quoted here cannot be extrapolated to a wider population outwith the consultee sample.

2.11 Not all respondents answered each question directly; rather they chose to focus on issues of specific importance to them. As such, some responses do not address directly the question as it is asked.

2.12 This consultation addresses some complex issues and some of the responses ask for further clarification on specific issues rather than providing an answer to the question being asked. A few of the responses also suggest there is a degree of confusion over some of the proposals being put forward.

2.13 The following chapters document the substance of the analysis and present the main issues and views expressed in responses. These chapters follow the ordering of the sections in the consultation document.

2.14 Appropriate verbatim comments, from those who gave permission for their responses to be made public, are used throughout the report to illustrate themes or to provide extra detail for some specific points.


Email: Debbie Headrick

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