Centre allowing vulnerable witnesses to pre-record evidence to open in Glasgow

Written by Jenni Davidson on 30 October 2018 in News

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service will get £950,000 for children and other vulnerable witnesses to give evidence away from court

Child with hands over face - Image credit: PA Images

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) is to get £950,000 to open a centre in Glasgow where children and other vulnerable witnesses can pre-record evidence to avoid them having to attend court.

The dedicated facility, which will open in 2019, will include flexible hearing suites and vulnerable witness suites with a direct video link to court, a private evidence room with one-way glass for observation and a sensory room with furnishings and quiet spaces.

The funding comes as part of a commitment by the Scottish Government to make the justice system less traumatic for child witnesses and others who may be vulnerable such as victims of domestic abuse or sex crimes.

The Vulnerable Witnesses Bill, which is currently being considered by MSPs, will allow more pre-recording of evidence by children and vulnerable witnesses in advance of a criminal trial if it is passed by parliament.

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: “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.

“We believe strongly that the justice system should be compassionate and trauma informed and able to respond effectively to the needs of the victims – both adults and children.”

He added: “While legislative reform is needed, it is vital that there are modern facilities available with pre-recording technology.

“That is why the improvements being delivered by SCTS are so important and will be key to the success of these reforms.”

SCTS chief executive Eric McQueen said work for the 2015 Evidence and Procedure Review had satisfied the SCTS of the need to transform the way evidence was taken from children and vulnerable witnesses.

A follow-up practice note by the Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian encouraged the use of recorded questioning by a commissioner in advance of a trial when taking evidence from children and vulnerable witnesses.

McQueen said: "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.”

Linda Jardine, interim director of children and family services at Children 1st, welcomed the new facilities.

She said: "Making sure children and young people feel welcome, comfortable and safe means they can give better evidence without feeling anxious or experiencing further trauma.

“We especially welcome the continuing involvement of children, young people and adults in shaping the development of this new suite, so that it better meets their needs.

“The suite is another important marker on Scotland’s journey to ensure that practice, systems and culture support child witnesses to recover and move on with their lives.”

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