Other forms of victim statement
Victim statements must currently be made in writing by the victim. Do you think we should look at piloting new ways for victim statements to be made?
If no, please set out your reasons why we shouldn’t look at piloting different ways for victim statements to be made.
|Not explicitly answered (a view on new ways to make a statement was expressed but no view on whether a pilot should be held)||3|
The third question focused on alternative forms of making a victim statements with four options presented for consideration and comment. Respondents were also asked to provide other suggestions in addition to the options presented.
The majority of respondents were in favour of expanding the ways in which victim statements could be made. All four options presented received broad support – with between 23 and 25 respondents (out of the 33 that said that we should look at piloting new ways for victim statements to be made) supporting each option, indicating appetite for the scheme to move beyond just written statements.
|Victims reading their statement in court||23|
|Pre-recording the statement on video||24|
|Pre-recording the statement with audio only||23|
|The judge reading the statement aloud to the court||25|
|Other options (provide details)||17|
Summary of other options
Respondents were offered an opportunity to suggest other ways in which making a victim statement could be improved. The points made are summarised thematically in the tables below.
|Delivered by others||Total|
|Other acceptable person/friend||7|
|VSS to give statement on behalf of victim||1|
One individual felt that statements should be given by:
“Someone from an advocacy service or acceptable person of their choice.”
|For children and young people||Total|
|Drawing/other nonverbal for youths||3|
|Augmentative Communication tools for children/vulnerable||1|
|Creative facilitation for children||1|
Mark Ballard of Children 1st felt:
“that in exploring new ways for victim statements to be made it is most important to talk to child victims themselves, who will be able to share much better than we can how they would best prefer to communicate. This consultation and review also provides an important opportunity to consider what improvements can be made in terms of technology, given that many children are experienced or more comfortable with expressing views in different digital formats.”
“ that children must be fully supported throughout this process so that the experience of explaining the impact is not further traumatising or distressing. We also believe that Judges and Sheriffs should be supported to understand the impact of trauma on child victims, and how this may shape how and what they communicate."
|Alternative ways of making a victim statement||Total|
|Partial written/video/audio if preferred||1|
|Video link/extend special measures||1|
|Speak directly to the judge||1|
|Ability to provide statements in other languages||1|
|Sheriff can decide to read or not as required||1|
Criminal Justice Voluntary Sector Forum suggested:
“ that the option to have a form that can be completed online should also be explored. This may be easier for some people to complete than a hard copy form and could improve the efficiency of the process.”
This was echoed by the South Lanarkshire Gender Based Violence Partnership who stated that:
“when considering improving the Scheme, to test a mixture of options, including the opportunity for the victim statements to be presented partly in writing and partly by some other medium such as an audio recording of the victim speaking. Victims may also want the opportunity to complete the victim statements form online. Whatever the process or approach, it must be trauma- informed and ensure children and adult victims are fully supported throughout.”
|Victim must have right to change their mind about how the statement is recorded||2|
|The current system where the victim must write their statement is very difficult for those who find writing challenging||2|
|Specialised location for VC/audio recording||1|
The Scottish Women’s Convention felt:
“The victim should have the right to change her mind regarding how the victim statement is delivered. This must be done without prejudice to her case or character.”
To help us decide whether we should pilot new ways for victim statements to be made, we need to identify any potential impacts that any changes may have.
Do you envisage any potential implications for you/your organisation if we were to pilot different ways of victim statement being made?
This question explored what kind of impact piloting new ways of providing victim statements would have on individuals and organisations. The respondents were fairly evenly split on whether they or their organisations would be affected by a pilot.
Summary of responses
The main themes emerging from comments received were about resourcing for organisations and staff training. One respondent specifically advised that piloting an expanded scheme would be a positive impact for survivors. Key themes from respondents comments on this issue are included in the table below.
|Support resource issues||Total|
|Increase in resources for support organisations required||4|
|Additional support staff training would be required||3|
|Proper support for prepping statements required||2|
|Improved access to appropriate technology required||2|
|Issues around presenting the audio/visual in court||1|
|Increase in support time after statement is made may be required||1|
|Greater workload for volunteers||1|
|There could be issues for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) in relation to court management||1|
|Increased assistance/support required for victims (NHS/ Housing/ addiction/ child protection)||1|
One individual summed up the issue of support with:
“cognisance needs to be given to the support required for the victim prior to and after the statement is given and for how long they may need this assistance and the type of assistance required, which could impact on addiction services, child protection, adult support and protection, NHS and housing. To be honest it could be any area of their life and we must have enough resources to be able to address this quickly, give support and monitoring quickly and for as long as it is required...”
|Other impacts to consider||Total|
|There could be an increase in inappropriate information being included in the statements/issue for the accused||2|
|Clearer instructions for victims will be required||1|
|There may be issues around sentencing||1|
|What impact if there was a criminal justice social work tie-in to victim statements||1|
Andrew Tregoning of the Faculty of Advocates warned that:
“… it could be counterproductive to the whole process and distressing to a victim of crime if, when they read out their Victim Impact Statement, or their video was played, the content of their statement was challenged in court or, the contents changed at a very late stage, excluding material they consider essential to the judge’s decision on sentence. Supportive and careful management of this exercise, involving a clear explanation of the process involved, would be essential to ensure the success of any change in the way the victim’s views are provided, either in person or on video.”
Whilst Louise Johnson of Scottish Women’s Aid noted that they
“… would anticipate increased engagement by Women’s Aid workers in supporting women and children who wish to engage their rights under the 2014 legislation to determine whether the court had taken their victim statement into account during sentencing.”