Justice System (Support for Serious Crime Victims)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 19th February 2020.

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Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government how the justice system provides support to victims of serious crime and keeps them informed at every stage of the process. (S5O-04129)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I welcome the member’s question, particularly as this is victims awareness week. The victims code for Scotland sets out victims’ rights to information. Victims of serious crime will be allocated a family liaison officer by Police Scotland to update them during the police investigation. If that leads to criminal charges, victims can also access support from the victim information and advice service at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Following a conviction, information on prisoners is available through the victim notification scheme. Support is available via Victim Support Scotland, including its support for families bereaved by crime service, and via the national advocacy project for victims of sexual violence. The victims task force is also considering ways to improve support and information.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

How does the Scottish Government ensure that victims of crime, especially the most serious crimes, have suitable emotional support and receive practical information specifically about their rights to make representations to the Parole Board?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

That is a hugely important area and a very important question; I thank the member for raising it. He will be aware that we recently held a consultation on parole and the analysis and response from that has been extremely welcome. We are actively looking at the support that Victim Support Scotland can provide and what it already does, and it can provide further emotional and practical support to victims when they are making written or oral representations to the Parole Board.

On the back of the consultation, we are looking at whether victims can perhaps even attend Parole Board hearings and a key part of that will be ensuring that they have welfare and emotional support. A transforming parole implementation group is taking that work forward. The group has met once, on 28 January, and it is due to meet again next week. I am happy to keep the member informed of progress as that work develops.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

A key feature of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 was police restitution orders, which would help to finance an expansion of the support that officers receive following an assault in the line of duty. To date, there is no sign of those orders being implemented. Why has there been a delay and when can we expect those orders to be brought forward?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

There has been good progress on restitution orders. I will write to the member with more detail. As he probably knows, some of the delay arose because of conversations that we had to have with the United Kingdom Government, which have been constructive ones. I made a commitment when I first came into this role that I would like to bring forward restitution orders and it was certainly an ask from the Scottish Police Federation. There has been significant progress and I will write to the member with more details.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Question 2 has been withdrawn for an obvious reason.