Extending eligibility to make a victim statement
Do you have a favoured option for how we could extend eligibility to make a victim statement?
|Option||Number of responses|
|Option A - expanding eligibility to include the list of serious offences at section 4||2|
|Option B - expanding eligibility to all cases heard under solemn proceedings||5|
|Option C - as per Option B but also including a list of offences which would be eligible for a victim statement, even if they were tried as summary proceedings||26|
|Did not express a preference||5|
As well as the list of offences included at section 4 of the consultation The respondents who selected option A also indicated that crimes in the following categories should be included:
- Any charge relating to gender based violence
- Intimate/indecent images
79% of the respondents who expressed a preference chose Option C, which suggested that the list of offences was expanded to all crime heard at solemn level along with a list of specific offences heard in summary court, as their preferred option. Respondents were invited to make suggestions and crimes relating to the following, when tried at summary proceedings, were proposed to be included;
- Bogus worker fraud
- Hate crimes
- Inappropriate communication particularly of a sexual nature
- Crimes which include a physical or emotional abuse element
Although the consultation was explicit that Options A, B and C were the only options that were being considered at this time, 22 respondents who expressed a preference suggested either a combination of options A, B and C or options which were not included in the consultation. This means that of the 33 respondents who offered an opinion, 67% provided alternatives.
|Options other than those offered in the consultation||Number of responses|
|Allow for a victim statement to be made for any offence regardless of the nature of the offence, or court in which it is to be heard||18|
|Phased approach starting with option A then expanding to include all crime||2|
|Option B or C||1|
|Available for every witness that is deemed vulnerable||1|
Therefore, of the 33 respondents who expressed a preference 61% stated that they wanted all victims of crime to be able to make a victim statement if they desired. That is 53% of all of those who participated in the consultation.
One respondent said:
“No one knows the impact even the most minor offences can have on a victim and so they should, if they wish, be able to express the impact that their own particular offence has had upon them as impact is relative to each victim”.
Whereas the Manda Centre stated:
“Option B is the preferred option since it affords a victim the opportunity to make statement in all cases heard under solemn proceedings and includes the benefit that any new offences that come into force in Scotland and are heard under solemn proceedings would automatically carry the right to make a victim statement, without the need to wait for a periodic review and update of the list of prescribed offences.”
To help us decide how to extend the list of current offences for which a victim statement can be made, we need to identify any potential impacts that the changes may have.
Do you envisage any potential implications for you/your organisation if the list of current offences that are eligible to make a victim statement was extended?
The majority of those who answered this question felt that there would be an impact should the victim statement scheme be extended to include more offences.
Respondents were invited to provide more detail and there were 19 different potential impacts identified should the victim statement scheme be changed. Of the 19 different impacts, the greatest focus was on more resources being required for support organisations and more support for the victims themselves.
One respondent was concerned that the system would buckle under the strain of the additional work while another advised that more information was required before an informed decision could be made.
Comments following this question can be broadly grouped by the themes of impact on support, impact on safety, impact on the legal profession, other miscellaneous impacts, and suggested improvements. The main points within each of these themes are laid out below.
|Impact on support||Total|
|More support required for/by victims||11|
|More financial support/resources required for support organisations||6|
|Support staff would need to upskill to support more/new victims||2|
|Increased victim protection would be required||1|
|There could be an increased risk of retraumatisation||1|
|There would be an increase in workload for COPFS||1|
The Scottish Borders Rape Crisis Centre in their response stated:
“More survivors may enquire about Victim Impact Statements and seek guidance and support when they are deciding what they would like to include and the criteria of what is permitted to be included.”
While Community Justice Scotland said:
“In order to reduce the risk of retraumatisation for those involved, the implementation of the proposed extension must be accompanied by commensurate development and investment in support and trauma informed practice.”
|Impact on safety||Total|
|We must consider the different safety needs of victim dependent on different ways of delivering a statement||1|
|There would be an increase in risk assessment requirements for domestic abuse cases||1|
|Impact on the legal profession||Total|
|There could be an increased need for legal advice||1|
|There could be an implication on legal aid for defence lawyers should there be an increase due to an increased scrutiny on statements||1|
Gillian Mawdsley of the Law Society of Scotland said:
“If any of the options are adopted as a result of the consultation, we would anticipate that there may be an increase in the number of victims seeking legal advice.”
“We consider that as part of the consultation, it would be appropriate to consider how best to ensure that the victim understands why and when such victim statements would be passed onto the defence."
|Victims expectations need to be managed||2|
|More info required before an informed decision can be made.||1|
|If opened to all, there will be greater clarity for support orgs/charities on who is able to make a victim statement||1|
|The system would buckle||1|
Although the consultation asked for potential impacts to the system should changes be made, some respondents used this question as an opportunity to address other ways that the system could be improved.
|Positive impact if victim statements could be passed to criminal justice social workers||3|
|Improved inter-organisational communication required||2|
|Independent advocacy needs to be highlighted||1|
|Sheriff should say that they have considered the victim statement||1|
|Change the way that the statement is requested from the victim||1|
|There should be procedural changes||1|
One respondent asked:
“Can Sheriffs identify that they have considered the victim impact statement before sentencing?”
This question was also raised and discussed in some detail at the consultation event on 1 November 2019.
Three respondents indicated that there would be a positive impact on the system should the victim statement be made available to criminal justice social workers, with one respondent remarking that:
“… if Criminal Justice Social Work Services could also be given access to the victim statements - it would make writing CJSW Reports, risk assessments, and assessing impact of harm much more robust and victim-centred rather than largely relying on the offender's self-report.”