Victim and Witness Support
Scotland’s devolved Parliament began life thirteen years ago, with a strong focus on support for victims and witnesses.
The Labour led government at the time, launched a Scottish Strategy for Victims because it realised that most victims and witnesses were frightened and shocked by their experiences, but typically had very few rights in the justice system.
The Scottish Strategy aimed to provide victims with greater understanding of what to expect in court, as well as a greater opportunity to influence the role of the justice system itself.
Yet it was realised that this was the start of a process, not an end.
As time progressed there was an evolution of the support provided to victims and witnesses.
A witness protection scheme was rolled out throughout Scotland, funding for victims organisations increased markedly, and legislation was passed creating greater transparency and better communication in the criminal justice system.
But the reform of the last five years has not matched the scale, the focus or the pace of the previous period.
Nevertheless, the launch this week, of the Scottish Governments consultation - Making Justice Work for Victims and Witnesses – provides an opportunity to build on the progress made in the first eight years and to quicken the speed of reform.
As Scottish Labour has argued consistently for the past five years, we need a Victims Commissioner who will provide a single point of contact for victims and their families, from the time the crime is committed, to the end of the court proceedings.
We require the creation of a Victims Fund, obligating convicted offenders in Scotland to pay towards the cost of victim support services.
And victims should be fully compensated, including loss of earnings, if they have suffered injury, loss or distress.
Only be achieving these goals will we get the process of evolution and progress back on track.