Publication - Research and analysis

Summary Justice Reform: Victims, Witnesses and Public Perceptions Evaluation

Published: 2 Feb 2012

A report on the findings of the evaluation of the impact of summary justice reforms on the experiences of victims and witnesses, and on victim, witness and public perceptions of summary justice in Scotland and the summary justice reforms.

85 page PDF

1.1 MB

85 page PDF

1.1 MB

Summary Justice Reform: Victims, Witnesses and Public Perceptions Evaluation
Appendix A - Methodology

85 page PDF

1.1 MB

Appendix A - Methodology

Core Approach

The evaluation comprised desk based research and review of key performance indicator data, alongside primary data collection by way of interviews with a range of stakeholders. This included:

Victim and witness support agencies/organisations - 11 interviews in total. All staff were recruited via an invitation issued by their employers. Interviews followed a topic guide drafted in collaboration with the Research Advisory Group and were carried out face-to-face or by phone. The researchers undertook to complete these interviews ahead of those with victims and witnesses in order that any general lessons about the victim and witness experience could be captured before the victim and witness interviews went ahead. This meant that the views of support and advice staff helped to shape the questions that were later posed to their client groups.

Professional and expert witnesses - 22 interviews in total. All staff were recruited via their employers, which were the Scottish Police Services Authority and the three separate police forces that were chosen as case study areas (see below). Interviews were carried out face-to-face or by telephone and lasted around 1 hour. Tailored topic guides were developed for each respondent group.

Civilian witnesses and victims - 26 interviews in total. Participants were recruited via an invitation letter issued by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service with an 'opt in' form to be returned directly to the researchers. This meant that participation could remain anonymous whilst contact details of those who did not wish to take part were not disclosed to the researchers. Additional invitation letters were issued by Victim Support Scotland to service users, using a similar opt in approach.

Members of the general public - 56 attendees in total. Participants were recruited in three case study areas using on-street and door-to-door recruitment. Loose quotas were set for age, gender and employment status and people working or otherwise involved with the criminal justice system were screened out. Incentives were paid to all attendees.

Case Study Areas

The work was undertaken in three case study Local Criminal Justice Board areas across Scotland, these being Glasgow and Strathkelvin; Lothian and Borders; and Grampian. A decision was made to adopt a case study approach for mainly practical reasons, and attempts were made to select three areas that would be broadly representative of the Scottish population in terms of geography and demographic features of the local populations.

In determining case study areas, consideration was also given to the availability of victim and witness support services in the area (since the level of support available to victims and witnesses in each area may impact on their experiences and perceptions of the justice system), the presence of other SJR evaluation research teams operating in the area (so as to provide results that could be most reliably mapped onto those evaluation findings) and court types, business and locations in each area (endeavouring to incorporate areas that have a mix of different court types) since this may be a variable influencing the impact of reforms, including, for example, the distribution of cases heard in each court type and the experience victims and witnesses have.

Deliberative Workshop Events

A deliberative workshop approach was chosen for speaking with members of the public, as it is a technique that is useful for exploring how people feel about issues of which they have little or no previous knowledge. It provides time and space for exploration of participants' initial views on a topic that is new to them; for informing them about the topic; and for investigating their informed views. The process provides a measurement of views and beliefs both before and after participants are informed on the subject, and qualitative research findings from the discussions on how and why people are forming their views and making their decisions.

Deliberative research is usually conducted on a larger scale than a focus group and is characterised by gathering both uninformed and informed views on a given topic. Either at, or before, the event initial views on the subject matter are collected and are compared to those given after knowledge has been imparted. The event itself is a mixture of discussion and informing of the audience by 'experts'. In this case, a number of Summary Justice Experts were invited to attend the events, to provide information to attendees and to answer questions that arose on the night.

The workshop events involved:

1 - Completion of a pre-event questionnaire which sought to collect information about people's awareness and understanding of the summary criminal justice system, the reforms and attitudes towards the overarching objectives. Questions were also asked about what people wanted from the summary criminal justice system in order to have confidence in it.

2 - A short presentation by the researchers to define the scope of summary criminal justice followed by mini-group discussions focussing on understanding of the system, sources of information about the system, the overarching objectives and what people wanted from the system in order to have confidence in it.

3 - Further short presentations by the researchers and expert panellists on the nature of summary criminal justice, the case process journey, the reforms and impact of the reforms to date, as evidenced by Key Performance Indicator data.

4 - Further mini-group discussions using plausible but hypothetical case study examples of how certain types of cases may be dealt with in the system both pre- and post-reform, as well as case studies to highlight some of the process changes that had been made. Views were sought from members of the public on overall perceptions of the changes, whether they were perceived to be a change for the better or worse, if they were considered to be fair to victims, witnesses and accused, if they would help to reduce re-offending or not and if they perceived that further changes were required.

5 - Completion of a post-event questionnaire before leaving the venues which again captured information about people's awareness and understanding of the summary criminal justice system, the reforms and attitudes towards the overarching objectives.

Three workshops were organised, each with 20 people recruited. The attrition rate was low, with 56 attendees from the 60 people who originally agreed to take part. The profile of participants is shown in Appendix C.


Email: Carole Wilson