This report analyses the responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on pre-recording evidence of child and other vulnerable witnesses.
One of the most important functions of the justice system is to protect the interests of witnesses to crime. However, there is the risk that witnesses – especially child and other vulnerable witnesses of the most serious and traumatic crimes – can be re-traumatised through their participation in the criminal justice process. This does not benefit witnesses or the interests of justice. Giving evidence in court long after events have taken place also does not support witnesses to provide the best evidence.
In recent years, arrangements have been strengthened within the justice system to extend access to special measures in court and, where appropriate, to help keep children and other vulnerable witnesses out of court, for example through greater access to remote video links for both summary and solemn criminal cases. However, the Scottish Government believes strongly that more can and should be done to support child and other vulnerable witnesses.
Between 29 June 2017 and 29 September 2017, the Scottish Government consulted on pre-recording evidence of child and other vulnerable witnesses. The focus of the consultation was on addressing identified legislative and practical gaps within the current arrangements for enabling child and other vulnerable witnesses to have their evidence pre-recorded in advance of trial, with a particular focus on strengthening and improving the current arrangements for evidence being taken by a Commissioner.
The initial focus of any changes is likely to be on child witnesses but the consultation also sought views on potential changes for vulnerable adult witnesses. This consultation also needs to be seen within the context of the wider work being taken forward to progress the vision set out by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice in order to improve the experiences of child and other vulnerable witnesses more generally.
The consultation received 47 responses, comprised of 16 individuals and 31 organisations. These were received via the consultation website Citizen Space, and also via email to a dedicated email account.
The consultation paper and the responses for which permission has been received to publish are available at:
The responses to this consultation will be considered as part of the Scottish Government's work to develop policy proposals for forthcoming legislation.
Classification of respondents
Table 1 groups respondents into six cohorts. This allows for analysis of any patterns in response across different types of organisations, or groups of individuals. A list of respondents can be found at Annex 1.
Table 1: Respondents by group
|Advocacy and support||8|
|Children and Young People||6|
|Local Authorities, health and multi-agency partnerships||9|
Where respondents have raised multiple points under one question, these have been dealt with under the most relevant section of the analysis.