Vulnerable Witnesses Act - section 9: report

This report meets obligations on Scottish Ministers by the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019 to publish a report evaluating the effectiveness of the Act at supporting witnesses to participate in the criminal justice system and to set out next steps for implementation.


1. For the purposes of determining whether an is a ‘relevant witness’ the age of the witness is calculated based on the date that the accused appeared on petition or from the date that the indictment was served on the accused

2. A relevant witness is defined as section 9 of the Vulnerable Witness (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019 as witness to whom the presumption in favour of pre-recorded evidence applies.

3. The definition of a vulnerable witness was expanded through the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 to encompass witnesses over the age of 18 who are the alleged victim in specified sexual, trafficking, domestic abuse and stalking offences.

4. As set out at Section 271 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.

5. Applications made for the use of a supporter have been discounted for the purposes of this calculation as the majority of applications for this special measure are for use in conjunction with or alongside another special measure and do not influence where a witness provides their evidence.

6. The definition of a vulnerable witness is set out at Section 271 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland Act) 1995

7. The specific sexual offences to which the presumption applies are set out at Section 288C of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 and includes offences such as rape, attempted rape, sexual assault and indecent exposure amongst other offences.

8. Note that the Court can only consider an application if one is lodged. The Court is not privy to information about all potentially relevant witnesses and can only make decisions about exceptions when an application is received.

9. As noted above, that while the heading under which this information was gathered includes both witnesses and parties failing to appear, in all cases captured by the review period it was the witness who failed to attend.

10. Where a court has deemed that an accused is unfit to stand trial, an examination of facts will occur. This is a procedure where evidence is led in before a judge sitting without jury. The Crown and the defence will have an opportunity to lead evidence and the defence has a duty to test the Crown case during this process.

11. This can also include cases where the accused does not turn up at trial and the trial has been re-scheduled.

12. See chapter 3

13. Subject to satisfactory evaluation and confidence that the system will be able to handle this phase at Phase 2.



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