Meeting At VSS Glasgow
Victim statement Discussion
Thursday 19 July 2019
We had an informative visit with frontline VSS staff to discuss the parameters of the upcoming victim statement (VS) Consultation.
The informal round table chat brought forward a number of interesting points, some of which touched operational matters.
Key points following the themes in the discussion document were as follows:
1. It was felt strongly that the point of VS is to give victims a voice.
2. Some victims feel that VS is pointless if they expect it to influence the sentence.
3. Victim statements should be available for all crimes.
4. Crimes which people have asked to fill in a statement for, but been unable to do so:
- Anti-social behaviour;
- Domestic abuse,
- intimate image abuse
5. One case where a woman’s purse had been stolen had a major impact on the victim, as the purse contents included irreplaceable personal items, the loss of which caused significant and ongoing distress to the individual concerned. Dealt with in summary court but a crime with a major impact on victim.
6. Other ways to present statements would be useful, some people can’t read or write. Audio or video would be useful. Drawing was mentioned. Can diary extract be used for impact statement?
Some points about victims and the VS process were raised:
7. Victims are often scared to say the wrong thing in a VS, but scared to say nothing as some victims feel that this would reflect badly on them.
8. Victims often don’t realise the impact of the crime until they actually fill out the statement. This can be traumatic. It is especially difficult when victims only engage with VSS last minute to get form completed. Process is much more effective when VSS are already engaging with the victim, they know the VS will be issued to them and they have time to prepare the victim and help them complete it.
9. Victims who are not confident with spelling/grammar have said that this puts them off filling in the form and can add to the trauma.
10. Victims often don’t appear to understand that filling in a statement it isn’t compulsory.
11. Family of young victims look to make statements too. Sometimes the parent of a child needs to present the impact of the crime on the family and can’t do so.
12. There are issues with accused seeing document for some victims it puts them off completing a VS as they don’t want to show how badly affected they have been.
13. If no statement given and victim is re-traumatised by the process of trying to complete a statement, can this be communicated to the judge?
14. A common question from victims is “can someone else fill it out for them”? Some victims struggle with writing or expressing themselves and would find this useful. VSS staff find it difficult not being able to help in more depth with filling the form.
Some points were raised about the way that the current scheme was administered:
15. VS form sent out too early in process with no apparent follow up from VIA.
16. Can VIA follow up the VS invitation letters with a phone call? Better victim centre approach and this would also allow them to signpost VSS.
17. A reminder a couple of weeks before trial would be useful.
18. Can there be any flexibility from COPFS with date that VS is due to be returned? Especially if the victims is doing things last minute. It is an issue for VSS when a victim turn up at the last minute that the service has not been previously supporting, looking for help with a VS. It takes time to engage and draw out the relevant information.
19. Can there be a referral system from VIA to VSS which would allow VSS an opportunity to engage at an appropriate point with victims looking to do a VS?
20. Can a tick box like the VSS “common reactions to crime” sheet be used as a as part of the VS form as prompt? As current form very basic, too open (too much blank space) and intimidating for some victims.
21. Can the guidance be updated and made clearer and access to it better signposted?
22. Can there be an electronic version of the pack that can be completed online?
23. Is there a chance that the new victims suite in Glasgow could be used to record VS’s?
24. Too many organisations involved with different deadlines and different forms to complete, this appears to confuse some victims.
25. Can they piggyback on existing GDPR sharing agreements for referrals?
26. Deaf and blind people, not many if any go through VSS, who is helping them and how?