Scottland – Greater support for victims of crime
The forthcoming Criminal Justice & Licensing Bill will provide greater support for victims of crime – as well as helping police prevent and combat criminal activities, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said today.
Mr MacAskill told an audience in Glasgow that, while continuing to drive down crime rates was a Scottish Government priority, so too was ensuring that the criminal justice system provides support for those who fall victim to criminals.
He was addressing the Victim Support Scotland’s European Victims’ Week conference in Glasgow, where delegates are discussing the role of local and national government, the voluntary sector and the wider community in supporting victims of crime.
Mr MacAskill said:
“Our Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill will propose the creation of new offences to deter criminals, bring forward measures to help tackle fraud and include provisions that aim to protect the public. It will also deliver sensible reforms to strengthen, modernise and improve the effectiveness of the justice system in Scotland.
“We aim to give criminal courts more flexibility to award compensation against an offender, and update the remit of compensation orders so they can reflect changes in the means of the offender, and be used to pay funeral and bereavement expenses to the relatives of a deceased victim.
“If supported by Parliament, these important changes will help more victims and their families.
“Separately, the ability of criminal courts to grant anonymity to witnesses will be put on a statutory basis through provisions in the Bill. The intention will be to protect the safety of the witness or serious damage to property, and prevent harm to the public interest.
“In addition, we intend to extend the scope of the Vulnerable Witnesses Act so that special measures will be available to child and adult vulnerable witnesses in all criminal proceedings in Sheriff and High Court as well as in trials.”
Mr MacAskill also commended the work of VSS, saying: “With 900 volunteers, VSS is an example of community-based support where ordinary people work with others across the justice system and beyond to provide valuable support for individual victims and those close to them.
“We all have a part to play in supporting those who are affected by crime, at local, national and international level.
“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting victims of crime and working with communities, voluntary organisations, local authorities and across borders to build stronger and safer communities for us all.”
David McKenna, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, welcomed the proposed contents of the Bill. He said:
“The proposed reforms demonstrate the value of working in partnership with Government and all the other agencies within the criminal justice field in Scotland to deliver a better service and greater protection for the victims and witnesses of crime.”
The Justice Secretary was addressing a Victim Support Scotland conference today, European Victims’ Day.
The Criminal Justice & Licensing Bill will bring forward measures to strengthen the criminal law and reform criminal procedure, ensuring local authorities, police, prosecutors and the courts are better equipped to prevent and tackle crime and support communities, including victims of crime.
The Bill will include measures to:
• create new Witness anonymity orders;
• extend support for vulnerable witnesses to all criminal proceedings in Sheriff and High Courts, not just during trials
• improve the courts’ flexibility to award compensation, thus helping victims of crime achieve greater satisfaction
• make it easier for prosecutors to obtain criminal Non-Harassment Orders against offenders so that victims are protected from further harassment and repeat offending