A series of proposals to improve the position of victims in the criminal justice system have been put out to views from the public by the Scottish Government in a new consultation.
They include statutory protection of the anonymity of complainers, independent legal representation for complainers in sex offence cases where their sexual history or character may be in issue, and the possibility of a new specialist criminal court for serious sexual offences.
Ministers also want to explore issues around the more controversial idea that has been put forward of single judge trials for serious sexual offence cases. The paper sets out the arguments for and against such a move, and poses a series of questions in order to "gather views to progress [the] debate".
Other proposals on which comments are invited are:
- establishing a Victims’ Commissioner for Scotland;
- options to underpin a trauma-informed and person-centred approach across the justice system;
- special measures to assist vulnerable parties involved in civil cases;
- a review of the requirement for people accused of crimes to provide details of their proposed defence in a statement provided to the court.
The consultation comes in the wake of the Government's Vision for Justice in Scotland, published in February 2022. It also takes forward the work of the Victims Taskforce and recommendations from Lady Dorrian’s Review of the management of sexual offence cases which do, or may, require a legislative underpinning.
Vision for Justice commits to "a transformational approach to justice reform to ensure the system meets the needs and values of today’s society, and the society we want to see in the future". This includes redesigning historical processes where they no longer meet present needs, and reforming in the interests of better outcomes for those who come into contact with the system.
The present consultation focuses on proposed legislative reforms which aim to strengthen the rights and improve the experiences of victims of crime as they engage with the process of justice. Some proposals apply to the victims of any type of crime, while others relate specifically to sexual offence cases.
Read the consultation here. Responses are invited by 5 August 2022.