New legislation to enable the greater use of pre-recording of evidence by child and vulnerable witnesses has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.
The Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill, if passed by Parliament, would amend the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 and forms part of wider reforms to provide more help and support for victims and witnesses in Scotland’s justice system.
The new Bill’s main provision is the creation of a new rule for children under 18 (complainers and witnesses) in order to ensure that where they are due to give evidence in the most serious cases, they will have it pre-recorded, usually by the special measure “evidence by commissioner”.
Other changes contained within the Bill include:
- New “ground rules hearings” to discuss whether all arrangements are in place and ready for pre-recording and to discuss the scope of questioning
- The opportunity for evidence to be pre-recorded pre-indictment if considered appropriate
- Increased flexibility by giving a new power for judges (when acting as a Commissioner during the pre-recording) to review all the special measures arrangements in place for that witness.
The offences to which the new rule for children applies are:
- Murder, culpable homicide, and assault to the danger of life
- Rape and other sexual offences
- Abduction and plagium (child kidnapping)
- Human trafficking, slavery and female genital mutilation
- An attempt to commit one of the offences above.
“From investing in a more ‘victim-centred’ approach that ensures people feel supported through the justice process to expanding advocacy services and funding research into survivors’ experiences, we are making significant progress to improve support for victims and witnesses,” said Justice Secretary Michael Matheson. “We are working to deliver a criminal justice system that is increasingly focused on the people affected by crime rather than the processes surrounding them.”
Contact our Leading Criminal Defence Lawyers Today
Our Leading Criminal Defence Lawyers in Paisley and Greenock have over 100 years combined experience in successfully defending our clients in every kind of criminal case in Scotland. We cover Glasgow, Greenock, Port Glasgow, Kilmacolm, Gourock, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, Barrhead, Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire and every police station and court in Scotland. Contact us immediately for free, initial legal advice 24 hours per day.