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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-05537: Douglas Ross (Highlands and Islands)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 13 December 2016

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the comment by the Lord Advocate on 9 December 2016 that "there continue to be systemic aspects of the criminal justice system, which cause difficulties for victims."

Answered by: Michael Matheson 10 January 2017

The support and protection of victims and witnesses is a key priority for the criminal justice system in Scotland and must always be balanced with the protection of the fundamental rights of the accused.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is committed to working with other agencies in the criminal justice system to improve the service which is provided across the system to all those who come into contact with the criminal courts, whether as victims, witnesses or accused persons.

The Scottish Government has already implemented a number of changes which increase the engagement of all parts of the system with victims, including the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014, the Victim’s Rights (Scotland) Regulations 2015 and the commitments in the Standards of Service for Victims and Witnesses and the Victims’ Code for Scotland, and further work is in hand to address some of the systemic issues which have been identified such as churn in the summary criminal courts and the adversarial nature of the trial process.

The Evidence and Procedure Review aims to improve the experience of those who come into contact with the criminal justice system by reducing the impact of churn in the summary courts and changing the way in which the evidence of children and other vulnerable witnesses is dealt with in court through the increased use of pre-recorded evidence.

A report by the former Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson QC, who has carried out a review into the needs of victims, will be published shortly and the recommendations will be considered by all parts of the criminal justice system through the work of the Justice Board.