Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill: island communities impact assessment

Records the decision not to carry out an island communities impact assessment for the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill. It explains why the Bill will not have a significantly different effect on island communities and describes how this assessment has been made.

Information relating to island communities

Crime and victimisation

At the last census (2011), a total of 93 islands in Scotland were inhabited, with a total population of 103,700 (2% of the total population of Scotland).

National statistics on crimes and offences recorded by the police show that the crime rate of the islands is generally very low.

In 2020/21 there were 144, 198 and 205 crimes per 10,000 people from Orkney, Shetland and Na h-Eileanan Siar local authorities respectively (compared to the 451 crimes per 10,000 people across Scotland on average). Highland local authority and Argyll and Bute local authority, which cover a number of island communities as well as communities on the mainland, also have crime rates that are below the Scottish average (319 crimes per 10,000 people for the former and 311 crimes per 10,000 for the latter).

North Ayrshire, which includes the islands of Arran and the Cumbraes, has a higher crime rate than the average across Scotland (497 per 10,000 people). The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (which includes crime as a deprivation factor) shows that for the 186 data zones in the North Ayrshire in 2020, none of the 10% most deprived areas are on the island of Arran and only 2 are found in the north coast region, which includes the Cumbraes.

While the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey does not contain findings relating specially to islands communities, it considers the differences in responses between urban and rural areas. Main findings from the 2019/20 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey relevant to the policies in the Bill are:

  • there was no statistically significant difference in the proportion who experienced serious sexual assault since the age of 16 depending on whether they lived in urban or rural areas, which is a consistent finding with previous results
  • there was no statistically significant difference in the proportion of respondents who had experienced less serious sexual assault since the age of 16 between those living in urban and rural areas, which is a consistent finding with previous results
  • no difference was detected in the likelihood of having experienced partner abuse by urban and rural location, both since the age of 16 (16.6% and 15.6%, respectively) and in the 12 months prior to interview (3.2% and 3.0%, respectively)

Participation in court proceedings

There are five Sheriff Courts located in island communities. These courts are at Lerwick, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Lochmaddy and Portree.

People living in island communities who are required to participate in court proceedings, including sitting on a jury, may have to travel to courts on the mainland.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) has advised that the list of potential jurors is checked in advance to identify anyone who is required to travel a long distance. When the court makes contact to ascertain availability, it checks to see if there are any anticipated difficulties with the travelling distance and it is indicated to the potential juror that they could be excused on that basis, if they wish. The court cannot make that decision for jurors - it is a matter for them as to whether they wish to serve as a juror. If they do, and depending on the individual circumstances, the court can arrange overnight accommodation for jurors from distant locations.

Data relating to measures in the Bill

There is currently no data on the use of special measures in courts on the islands.

There is no available data on where jurors are cited from as SCTS do not routinely gather information on jurors.

There is currently no disaggregated data held on applications to lead sexual history/'bad character' evidence.



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