Victim Notification Scheme: guidance for victims of crime

Guide explaining what the scheme is, who can take part, what information you can expect to receive and when.

The information you can receive

There are two parts to the scheme. If you choose to join, you can opt in to either Part 1 or Part 2, or both.

Part 1

Part 1 gives you the right to know certain information about the offender. Information is generally provided in writing so it is important that you notify the Scottish Prison Service of any change to your address. A letter will be sent to you to tell you of any of the following events:

  • the date of the offender’s release (but not their location after release)
    This information is usually sent to you up to four weeks before the offender’s date of release so that you have prior warning of it. Exceptions to this include life prisoners or offenders with extended sentences who are being re-released after having been recalled to prison. In these cases, the offender must be released immediately following a direction from the Parole Board. It is therefore possible, in these cases, that the person will have been released before you receive the information.
  • if the offender dies before being released, the date of death
    This information will be sent to you as soon as possible after the date of the death. You should be aware that there may be early press coverage of the death of an offender.
  • if the offender has been transferred to a place outwith Scotland
    This information will be sent to you as soon as possible after the offender has been transferred.  
  • if the offender is eligible for temporary release – such as for training, work or home leave
    Whilst in prison offenders can become eligible for consideration for temporary release. This means that they could become involved in training and work placements in the community. In most cases, offenders will be allowed temporary release for periods of home leave from prison or work placement in preparation for release. You will only be informed when the offender first becomes eligible for temporary release. You are not entitled to be told about each individual period of temporary release thereafter or any further reconsideration.
  • if the offender escapes from prison or hospital or absconds (does not return to prison or hospital when they should) 
    You will be entitled to be told if an offender fails to return to prison after home leave or a work placement, escapes from a prison or absconds from an open prison. Sometimes an offender detained in hospital may also fail to return, escape or abscond from hospital premises. On all of these occasions the police are alerted immediately. If the offender is considered to present a threat to the victim, the police will take steps to ensure that the victim is notified as soon as possible. Usually, offenders will return to prison or hospital within the first 48 hours. You will be notified about the offender escaping or absconding. You will be told when the offender is returned to custody.
  • if the offender returns to prison for any reason and it is connected to your case
    You will be told if an offender returns to prison following release and the sentence for the offence committed against you has not reached an end. You will be told if the offender is to remain in prison when the sentence for the offence against you has ended. At this point you will no longer be a member of the Victim Notification Scheme as you will not be entitled to receive information in relation to any further sentence.  
  • if the offender’s detention in hospital has been suspended, for the first time, without the requirement for supervision
    An offender who is subject to a Hospital Direction or a Transfer for Treatment Direction and is detained in hospital for mental health treatment cannot leave hospital, unless their detention is suspended. Detention can be suspended to allow an offender to appear in court or to attend medical appointments, but may also be suspended as part of the offender’s treatment. Decisions on suspending detention are only taken after a risk assessment has been done and normally the offender will be accompanied by hospital staff, but treatment may mean the offender progresses to detention being suspended without supervision. The first time this happens you will be informed that a certificate has been granted suspending detention without a supervision requirement. You will also be informed if that certificate is revoked (in such cases the offender’s detention would not be suspended and they would be unable to leave hospital). You will, however, not be told about each individual period of suspension of detention without supervision thereafter.

Part 2

Victims (or, in certain circumstances, the victim’s representative) who wish to make representations must register for Part 2 of the Victim Notification Scheme. This gives you the right to contribute to decisions taken whilst the offender is in prison or hospital, by making representations about an offender. 

Hospital – Suspended Detention
When the offender’s Responsible Medical Officer is considering granting a certificate suspending the offender’s detention in hospital without requiring the offender to be supervised you will be invited to make representations about how such a decision might affect you or members of your family. The Responsible Medical Officer will consider the information you provide before deciding any conditions that will apply to the offender while they are out of hospital. Such conditions may include a requirement not to contact certain individuals or go to a certain place or area. You will only be able to make representations on the first occasion that the offender is considered.

Prison – Release (including Temporary Release)
Part 2 also gives you the right to make representations about the release of the offender. An offender can be considered for early release or temporary release. The Parole Board for Scotland is responsible for deciding whether offenders serving sentences of four years or more can be released. The Scottish Prison Service is responsible for deciding whether offenders can be released on Home Detention Curfew. The Scottish Prison Service are also responsible for deciding whether offenders can be given temporary release.

The Scottish Prison Service will write to you in all of these circumstances. You will only be able to make representations on the first occasion that the offender is considered for temporary release.

The Parole Board for Scotland and the Scottish Prison Service will tell you if:

  • the offender is to be released; and
  • if there are any conditions of that release which relate to you or your family.



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