Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Scottish Government plans will introduce ‘victim tax’ on offenders in ‘better support for victims & witnesses’ consultation

THE Scottish Government has announced a consultation over plans to provide more help & support to victims of crime & witnesses. Among the plans being put forwards is the introduction of a ‘victim tax’ which offenders will be required to pay their victims. However, those hoping any possible ‘victim tax’ may apply to professions & businesses who rip off consumers may find the law falls flat on its face. Read the consultation HERE

Scottish Government Press Release :

Better support for victims and witnesses


Providing more help and support for victims and witnesses whilst making offenders more accountable for their crimes is key to building a better criminal justice system, the Justice Secretary said today.

Ahead of the Bill to support victims and witnesses, the Scottish Government has published a consultation to hear views on what measures would have the most impact. 

During the eight week consultation, interested groups will be encouraged to give their views on the consultation proposals, which include:

Introducing a victim surcharge so that offenders pay towards the cost of supporting victims.

Requiring the courts to consider compensation in every case where a victim has suffered injury, loss or distress.

Creating an automatic right to special measures when giving evidence in court, such as testifying via live television links within courts, for victims in cases involving sexual offences and domestic abuse.

Improving the way cases are managed so that victims and witnesses can have far greater confidence that, where they are required to give evidence, the case will go ahead on the day as planned.

Creating a duty on relevant public agencies to set clear standards of service for victims and witnesses.

Commissioning a feasibility study into how we can provide much better information for victims and the public about specific cases.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill today met victims with recent experience of the justice system at Victim Support Scotland. He said:  “The way we treat our victims and witnesses is a measure of the quality of our justice system as a whole which exists to build a safer and stronger Scotland. Clearly, people do not choose to become a victim or indeed a witness.  That is why a key focus of my work as Justice Secretary is to stop people becoming victims in the first place and we are making progress with crime at a 35-year low. Every victim is one too many and the impact of crime can live on long after the justice system has moved on to another case.  When people do become victims, they are entitled to receive high quality support, the right information at the right time and a chance to have their voices heard.”

Mr MacAskill continued : “I have published this consultation with the intention of placing victims and witnesses right at the very heart of the criminal justice system, not as passive spectators, but as informed, supported and valued people whose needs must be served. We are proposing a range of practical new measures such as a surcharge which will provide new funds to assist victims while making offenders pay for their crime as well as extending an automatic right to special measures to victims in sexual offences and domestic abuse cases. We are starting from a good position and in recent years have introduced victim statements in serious cases, extended the Victim Notification Scheme and despite a difficult financial settlement we have maintained overall funding for support services to victims and witnesses - I am determined that savings won’t mean cuts for this group that deserve the very best of support during difficult times. “As we move forward with meaningful reform of our criminal justice system, guided by the Carloway Review, and look to ensure it is fair towards the accused, I am equally determined that we transform and improve the experience of victims and witnesses in Scotland – building a better system for all to have confidence in.”

Jim Andrews, Deputy Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, welcomed the launch of the consultation, which was viewed by the charity as a major step forward in further improving rights for victims and witnesses of crime.  He added: “We welcome the opportunity to work with the Government and the Parliament in ensuring that among the finalised proposals are those which recognise the problems faced by the individuals and families who require our support. There are clearly a number of major issues which have to be addressed and Victim Support Scotland will play its part in helping to further modernise Scotland’s criminal justice system.”

This consultation outlines six objectives for victims and witnesses policy:

Victims and witnesses should know what is going on in cases which affect them.

Victims and witnesses should know what to expect in relation to proceedings, including that hearings will go ahead when scheduled.

Victims and witnesses should feel confident in coming forward and that their personal safety will be protected.

Victims and witnesses should be able to contribute effectively to cases which affect them.

Victims and witnesses should have access to appropriately tailored support before, during and after proceedings.

Offenders should pay for the injury, loss or distress they have caused.

Special measures are intended to enable vulnerable witnesses to provide the best possible evidence.  Currently only child witnesses (up to 16) have an automatic entitlement to standard special measures.  We propose to change the definition of a child to be a person up to age 18.  In keeping with other developments to improve support for victims of domestic abuse and sexual offences, we propose to create an automatic right to standard special measures for victims in cases involving sexual offences and domestic abuse.  Standard special measures are a live television link within the court building, a screen so that the witness does not see the accused; and a supporter along with either of these.

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