A dedicated facility where children and vulnerable adults will be able to give evidence without attending court will open in 2019, the Scottish Government has announced.
With £950,000 in funding, the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service (SCTS) centre in Glasgow will increase access to pre-recording of evidence. It will also provide flexible hearing suites and vulnerable witness suites with a direct video link to court, a private evidence room with one-way glass to aid observation, and a specially designed sensory room with furnishings and quiet spaces.
The Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill, currently before the Scottish Parliament, aims to improve how children, in the first instance, and other vulnerable witnesses participate in the criminal justice system by creating a rule in favour of pre-recording their evidence in advance of a criminal trial.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf commented: "This is the latest step towards achieving our ambition that children, wherever possible, should not have to give evidence in court during a criminal trial. It will make significant improvements to witnesses’ experience of the justice system in Glasgow. I am pleased to hear that there is scope for expansion in Scotland and where appropriate, these suites may also be used for vulnerable adult witnesses."
SCTS chief executive Eric McQueen added: "Our earlier work on the Evidence and Procedure Review satisfied us we needed to transform the way in which we take the evidence of children and vulnerable witnesses. This was followed up with the Lord Justice Clerk’s practice note to encourage the use of evidence by commissioner procedure, where a child or vulnerable witness can be questioned in advance of a trial under the supervision of a judge and their evidence recorded.
"We know from the initial evaluation of the practice note that having the right facilities and environment are critical factors and the new hearings suite in Glasgow will mean that children and vulnerable people can be supported to give their best evidence, and have it tested, in a safe and secure environment."