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07/10/18 10:41

Victims Task Force

Justice Secretary to lead group driving progress for victims of crime.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf is to chair a dedicated task force to improve victims' experiences of the justice system.

The task force will drive delivery of government commitments to ensure victims' voices are heard, to streamline their journey through the criminal justice system, and to provide wide-ranging support and accessible information through the process.

It will hear evidence directly from victims on their experiences of the justice system and membership will include senior decision-makers from justice agencies and voluntary sector partners, including those who directly represent victims.

The first meeting will take place later this year.

Mr Yousaf said:

"The impact of crime can be long-lasting and traumatic. Significant progress has been made in recent years to enhance victims' rights and provide funding for appropriate support, while criminal justice agencies have set robust standards of service for victims and witnesses. However, we must go further to ensure the justice system does not exacerbate trauma and distress.

"Crime in Scotland has fallen by around a third over the last decade with fewer people becoming victims. However, some crime types such as sexual offences show increases and we must redouble our efforts to ensure where any victim of crime comes forward they are provided with a consistently high standard of service.

"Since my appointment I have made clear my determination to develop a truly victim-centred approach which will demand coordinated action by justice system partners and victim support organisations. This task force will accelerate progress by keeping up momentum and ensuring accountability, focusing on the improvements that matter most to victims and working together to break down barriers to change." 

Kate Wallace, Chief Executive, Victim Support Scotland:

"We strongly believe that a partnership approach is the best way to ensure that everyone affected by crime gets the support they need. It will mean that the voices of victims and witnesses are better heard, that we'll be able to develop improved services and that we can create more effective policies. No single organisation has all the answers so bringing together our different perspectives and expertise is essential.

"We appreciate the Scottish Government's leadership in this area and are looking forward to playing a key role ourselves in the new task force."

Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland said:

"Recorded levels of rape continue to increase, with new figures released last week showing a further 22% increase. Rape complainers continue to tell us of very difficult experiences of the criminal justice system, with the fear of giving evidence of this nature compounded by long delays and frequent changes in court dates.

"This task force is an opportunity to make a difference to complainers' experience of, and confidence in, the justice system."

Background

The 2018-19 Programme for Government includes commitments to:

  • Reduce and, where possible, eliminate the need for victims to have to retell their story to different organisations as they look for help, working with Victim Support Scotland and others
  • Widen the range of serious crimes where the victim can make a statement to the court about how the crime has affected them, consulting on specific details by early 2019
  • Increase the openness and transparency of the parole system
  • Ensure victims and their families have better information and greater support ahead of prison release arrangements
  • Establish, by Spring 2019, a new support service for families bereaved by murder and culpable homicide
  • Improve the experience in the justice system of victims of rape and sexual assault.

The 2016-17 Scottish Crime & Justice Survey, based on interviews with almost 5,600 adults about their experience of crime “ including incidents not reported to police“ shows the likelihood of being a victim of crime has fallen, with the proportion of adults experiencing crime fewer than 1-in-7 compared to around 1-in-5 a decade ago.

Read further information on the Scottish Government's work with justice agencies other partner organisations to strengthen support for victims and witnesses.