Scottish Government to set up victims’ taskforce, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf announces
The Scottish Government is to set up a victims’ task force to help improve the criminal justice system from a victims’ point of view, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf announced at the SNP conference in Glasgow.
This follows a commitment in last month’s programme for government to make the justice system more victim centred and to provide better support and information for victims of crime.
The taskforce will be made up of senior figures from justice agencies and their voluntary sector partners, including those who represent victims.
Victims themselves will not be part of the taskforce, but it will take evidence directly from victims and victim’s groups on their experiences of the justice system.
The first meeting of the group will take place later this year.
Yousaf said: "The impact of crime can be long-lasting and traumatic.
“Significant progress has been made in recent years to enhance victims' rights and provide funding for appropriate support, while criminal justice agencies have set robust standards of service for victims and witnesses.
“However, we must go further to ensure the justice system does not exacerbate trauma and distress.
"Crime in Scotland has fallen by around a third over the last decade with fewer people becoming victims.
“However, some crime types such as sexual offences show increases and we must redouble our efforts to ensure where any victim of crime comes forward they are provided with a consistently high standard of service.
"Since my appointment I have made clear my determination to develop a truly victim-centred approach which will demand coordinated action by justice system partners and victim support organisations.
“This task force will accelerate progress by keeping up momentum and ensuring accountability, focusing on the improvements that matter most to victims and working together to break down barriers to change."
Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, added: "We strongly believe that a partnership approach is the best way to ensure that everyone affected by crime gets the support they need.
“It will mean that the voices of victims and witnesses are better heard, that we'll be able to develop improved services and that we can create more effective policies.
“No single organisation has all the answers so bringing together our different perspectives and expertise is essential.
"We appreciate the Scottish Government's leadership in this area and are looking forward to playing a key role ourselves in the new task force."
The Scottish Conservatives backed the idea, but said it was only “a start”.
Shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: "The Scottish Conservatives have campaigned for Michelle's Law, which would strengthen victims’ rights.
“It is good to see the pressure we’ve put on the SNP to address 11 years of failing victims seems to be paying off.
"But Nicola Sturgeon was unwilling to introduce legislation in the SNP's weak programme for government.
"This task force must address how the SNP's soft-touch approach to justice lets down victims of crime and their families.
"It is a start but the only legislation proposed is all about soft touch offender ‘rights’.
"Warm words will never replace strong action."