Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019: implementation plan

Timeline for phasing in changes to give children and vulnerable adult witnesses an automatic right to pre-record their evidence before the most serious court cases.

The Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019 introduced a right for children and vulnerable witnesses in the most serious criminal cases to have their evidence pre-recorded instead of testifying in court.

We are rolling out the legislation in stages, to give the criminal justice system time to prepare and to make sure the right facilties are in place for witnesses.

We have revised our original implementation plan due to the impact of covid and the resulting backlog in court cases. We will keep this plan and timescales under review.

Phase Description Court Case type Status
1 Child complainers* and witnesses under 18  High court  See list of offences below** Complete - introduced January 2020
2 Evaluation of phase 1 N/A N/A Complete
3 Child complainers and witnesses under 16 Sheriff court Sheriff and jury cases involving an offence listed below** By April 2026
4 Evaluation of phase 3 N/A N/A April to September 2026
5 Child complainers and witnesses aged 16 and 17 Sheriff court Sheriff and jury cases involving an offence listed below** To be confirmed - dependent on evaluation of previous phases
6 Deemed vulnerable adult witnesses (complainers of sexual assault) High Court Sexual offence cases listed in paragraphs 36 to 59ZL of Schedule 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 To be confirmed - dependent on evaluation of previous phases
7 Remaining deemed vulnerable adult witnesses (complainers of human trafficking, stalking and domestic abuse) High Court Human trafficking, stalking and domestic abuse To be confirmed - dependent on evaluation of previous phases

* A complainer is the Scottish legal term for a person who says they are a victim of a crime.

** Covers criminal cases where the charge involves:

  • murder, culpable homicide and assault to the danger of life
  • rape and other sexual offences
  • domestic abuse
  • abduction and plagium (child kidnapping)
  • human trafficking, slavery and female genital mutilation
  • an attempt to commit an offence above

Find out more

Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019

Pre-recording witness evidence

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