Holyrood message by Duncan McNeil MSP
Published 18 Jun 2012 12:00 0 Comments
Scotland's devolved parliament began life 13 years ago, with a strong focus on support for victims and witnesses.
The Labour-led Government at the time launched a Scottish strategy for victims because it realised most victims and witnesses were frightened and shocked by their experiences, but typically had very few rights in the justice system.
The Scottish strategy aimed to provide victims with greater understanding of what to expect in court, as well as a greater opportunity to influence the role of the justice system itself.
Yet, it was realised this was the start of a process, not an end. As time passed, there was an evolution of the support provided to victims and witnesses.
A witness protection scheme was rolled out throughout Scotland, funding for victims organisations increased markedly, and legislation was passed creating greater transparency and better communication in the criminal justice system.
But the reform of the past five years has not matched the scale, the focus or the pace of the previous period.
Nevertheless, the launch this week, of the Scottish Government's consultation - making justice work for victims and witnesses - provides an opportunity to build on the progress made in the first eight years and to quicken the speed of reform.
As Scottish Labour has argued consistently for the past five years, we need a victims' commissioner who will provide a single point of contact for victims and their families, from the time the crime is committed, to the end of the court proceedings.
We require the creation of a victims' fund, obligating convicted offenders in Scotland to pay towards the cost of victim support services.
And victims should be fully compensated, including loss of earnings, if they have suffered injury, loss or distress.
Only be achieving these goals will we get the process of evolution and progress back on track.
This article appeared in Greenock Telegraph 18 Jun 12