14. Impact On Victims
Impact on Victims
14.1 The primary focus of the MAPPA is the risk posed by, and the behaviour of, the offender. In assessing that risk, account needs to be taken of the possible impact of an offender's behaviour on victims of the original offence or offences, as well as the possibility of there being new victims. Chapter 4 relates to the assessment and management of risk which in a MAPPA context will always consider victim safety issues in the development of a risk management plan. However, this chapter gives a more general description of victim's issues.
14.2 The risk posed to an existing victim will depend on a range of factors, including the nature of the original offence, the relationship between the offender and the victim and the current location of the victim. Victims can include not only those most easily identified as the victim(s) but those who, whilst not directly involved with the offence itself, have been seriously affected by it - the family of a murder victim, for example.
14.3 Where there is, or was, an established relationship between the victim and the offender, great care has to be taken to assess the likelihood of the offender attempting to contact the victim. Any assessment needs to consider, amongst other things, the proximity of the victim and offender and the chances of them meeting, inadvertently or otherwise.
14.4 Even when an offence was apparently random and it is deemed unlikely that an offender will seek to contact a particular victim, the victim may be fearful or distressed about the possibility of meeting the offender. Consequently, as part of the MAPPA process consideration should be given not only to the risks posed by an offender to existing victims, but also taking steps to minimise victims' anxiety and, where appropriate, provide reassurance.
14.5 The possibility of new victims, or the possibility of existing victims being targeted once more needs to be considered. The focus of this element of the risk assessment is on identifying anyone who is at risk from the offender. In some cases these may not be known individual(s) but people who are vulnerable by virtue of their location, age, gender, race, religion, sexuality or other distinguishing characteristic.
Rights of Victims
The Victim Notification Scheme
14.6 If the offender has been sentenced to 18 months or more in prison, the victim can choose whether or not to register with the Victim Notification Scheme. The scheme has two parts and victims can opt to receive information under either or both parts.
14.7 Part 1 entitles victims to receive information about the offender's:
- Date of death, if they die before being released
- Date of transfer, if they are transferred to a place outwith Scotland
- Eligibility for temporary release (for example, for training and rehabilitation programmes or home leave in preparation for release)
- Escape or absconding from prison
- Return to prison for any reason.
14.8 Part 2 of the scheme entitles victims to information about the offender being considered either for parole or release on Home Detention Curfew (sometimes known as "tagging"):
- When the Parole Board for Scotland is due to consider the case affecting the victim, the victim will be given the chance to send written comments to the Board
- When the Scottish Prison Service is considering a prisoner's release on HDC, the victim will be given the chance to send written comments to the prison service
- The victim will be told whether the Board recommends or directs the release of the offender
- The victim will be told whether any conditions have been attached to the licence that relate to them or their family.
14.9 In cases where the victim has died, the VNS allows information to be shared with up to four of the victim's nearest relatives; the list of eligible relatives and the hierarchy of priority is set out in section 14(10) of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. This legislation provides a lawful basis for the disclosure of information to victims (within the limits set out in the Act).
14.10 If the offender has been sentenced to less than 18 months in prison, the victim cannot join the VNS as described above - but they are still entitled (under the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014) to be informed, on request, when the offender is released, or in the event that the offender escapes. To register to receive such information, the victim should write to the Scottish Prison Service.
Support and Information for Victims
14.11 Even in cases that date back many years, victims may be supported by a support organisation, and may feel it helpful to have that organisation involved if agencies are in contact with them about the MAPPA process. Even if victims are not being currently supported, it may be helpful to consider suggesting the involvement of a support agency when victims are being approached, particularly if the victim is vulnerable. Typically, Victim Support Scotland or Women's Aid and Rape Crisis services offer support to victims, but there are a range of other agencies that might be involved in providing practical and emotional support to victims.
14.12 More information about victims' rights and available support can be found in the Victims' Code for Scotland, which is published under the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 and is available at: https://www.mygov.scot/victims-code-for-scotland/ .
14.13 In addition to voluntary agencies, Victim Information and Advice ( VIA) provide a service to victims and witnesses of crimes reported to the Procurator Fiscal ( PF) which involve:
- Domestic abuse;
- Racial or religious aggravation;
- Sexual offences;
- Child victims and witnesses;
- Crimes where any trial is likely to involve a jury.
14.14 They can also assist the nearest relatives in cases of deaths which may involve criminal proceedings, or where there is to be a Fatal Accident Inquiry ( FAI) or significant further inquiries, and vulnerable witnesses or victims who may need additional support (because of, for example, language, circumstances or disabilities).
14.15 The role for MAPPA is to ensure that the risk assessment and risk management plan developed by the responsible authorities for the offender takes full account of the known concerns of any specified victim(s). The responsible authorities must satisfy themselves that they have thoroughly considered the potential risks to which any victim may be exposed, and put in place appropriate plans to minimise the likelihood of the offender causing further serious harm.
14.16 The sharing of information relating to the victim(s) by the responsible authorities plays a central role in making this aspect of the MAPPA process successful. Such an approach will, for example, minimise the likelihood of an offender being accommodated within the same neighbourhood locality as a victim. Where appropriate, reassurance should be provided, especially to existing victims. Clearly, contacting victims in any circumstances, particularly those most vulnerable, will be a sensitive matter which requires careful handling.