Scottish Government consults on extending victim court statements
Victims of stalking, human trafficking and domestic violence may be given the right to explain to court how the crime personally impacted them, under a new Scottish Government proposal.
The Scottish Government has announced a new consultation looking at whether to extend written victim statements to victims of “all serious crimes”.
Currently victims of certain serious crimes, including murder, rape, racially motivated crimes and housebreaking, are given the opportunity to write a victim statement for the courts.
The statement gives victims the chance to tell a court, in their own words, how a crime affected them physically, emotionally and financially. It is then considered by sheriffs and judges as part of the sentencing process.
The consultation document stated the current offence list was created in 2009, and since then “a number of new, serious offences have come into force in Scotland in relation to which a victim statement cannot be made, for example stalking and the domestic abuse aggravation”.
Forced marriage, human trafficking, breach of a forced marriage protection order, intimate image abuse, causing serious injury by dangerous driving and offences aggravated by religious prejudice are all listed as offences where victim statements could be extended to.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said “for maximum effectiveness” the court system should keep pace with technology and changes to criminal law.
“And we are committed to ensuring the voices of victims are represented as we continue developing victim support,” he said.
“The long-term fall in crime over the last decade means fewer people fall prey to criminals in Scotland, but any experience of a serious crime can be traumatic and the fallout can affect many parts of a victim’s life.
“Victim statements are a way of giving people the option of having their voice heard in court to tell their side of the story – how they and their loved ones have been impacted by the crime.”
The Scottish Government is also consulting over other ways for victims to deliver these statements, for example pre-recorded video statements for those who find it difficult to express themselves in writing.
The ‘Widening the Scope of Victim Statements’ consultation is open for responses until November 24.