18th February 2013

Victims Support

Being a victim of a serious crime, can be a traumatic experience for an individual, and can leave them feeling isolated, fearful and upset.


So it’s vital, that we have a justice system which is victim orientated, in other words, a system that puts the rights of the victim first.


Worryingly, however, a recent survey conducted on behalf of the Scottish Government, found that members of the public believe that the accused were treated more fairly than the victim.


This imbalance must be fully addressed. A failure to do so, will lead to a loss of faith in our justice system, resulting in fewer people reporting crimes, and criminals being let off the hook as a result.


The Victims and Witnesses bill recently launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, appears to be a step in the right direction to addressing the imbalance.


The aim of giving victims greater involvement in the judicial process and the idea of getting offenders to pay into a victims fund are sensible proposals.


However, the Cabinet Secretary must ensure that offenders do in fact pay up. Anyone who has read my column will know that offenders have showed a real unwillingness to do so.


Kenny MacAskill also needs to ensure that the punishment meted out to criminals by the authorities is proportionate to the crime committed.


On one occasion, I was contacted by a constituent, who had been subject to two brutal assaults’, but the criminal in question escaped imprisonment and instead received a community service order.


Such incidences, cause confusion and uncertainty, add insult to injury and compound the weight of the trouble that victims face.


If faith in our justice system is to be restored, shocking examples such at this should not be allowed to happen.