Victims' Rights

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:15 pm on 15th September 2005.

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Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 5:15 pm, 15th September 2005

As is traditional, I congratulate Margaret Jamieson on lodging a motion on an important issue that has to be addressed. I assure her that my colleague Stewart Stevenson supports the motion. I think that his failure to sign it was down to an administrative error rather a failure to support the principle.

Margaret Jamieson has rightly raised matters that we have all taken for granted. There are two aspects to the debate: the general issue of victims' rights and the specific issue of the outcome of the on-going slopping out cases. It is to the Executive's credit that the general issue is being addressed by both the Minister for Justice and the Solicitor General for Scotland. However, the attitude that permeated not just political parties but the whole legal system was that victims were at best an inconvenience and at worst rated no higher than any other aspect of the evidence gathered; they were there simply as part of the process. Sheriffs, in hearing cases, were doing everyone a favour, as opposed to having their wages paid by the taxpayer—including, in many instances, the victims themselves. We need an attitudinal change in this country and to recognise that victims have rights and that they have suffered. That has to be taken into account.

I turn to an aspect of the debate that Margaret Jamieson raised. I, too, read the recent article by Lord McCluskey, and I agree with him whole-heartedly. All of us in this chamber, from all political parties, sign up to the belief that there has to be an acceptance of the principles of the European convention on human rights, which is enshrined in legislation. However, what is happening is not what we anticipated. Like many people, such as Lord McCluskey in particular, for whom I have the utmost respect, I am bamboozled about just how we got into the mess that we are in. Of course prisoners have rights. Nobody is arguing that they should be given a diet of bread and water or that they should be detained in leg irons; they have to be treated with dignity and respect.