Consultation on widening the scope of the current victim statement scheme

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Closes 29 Nov 2019

Questions

1. Do you have a favoured option for how we could extend eligibility to make a victim statement?
2. To help us decide how to extend the list of current offences for which a victim statement can be made, we need to identify any potential impacts that the changes may have.

Do you envisage any potential implications for you/your organisation if the list of current offences that are eligible to make a victim statement was extended?

3. Victim statements must currently be made in writing by the victim. Do you think we should look at piloting new ways for victim statements to be made?

Other forms of victim statement

A victim statement must currently be completed in writing by the victim and then submitted to COPFS.

During the passage of the 2014 Act, alternative forms of making a statement were considered. For example, pre-recorded video statements which could be helpful for those who may find it difficult to express themselves in writing.

At the time, various concerns were raised by stakeholders about implementing such changes. For example victim support organisations voiced concerns related to the potential emotional impact of making a video on victims themselves, even for those who were initially keen to record a statement. 

In response to these concerns, the manner in which statements could be presented wasn’t extended, however provision was included in the 2014 Act to specify by Order the form and manner in which victim statements may be made. The provision also allows for piloting of any proposed changes which could be rolled out more widely should they prove successful.

This consultation provides an opportunity to revisit whether there is now an appetite to explore alternative forms of making a victim statement.

If yes, which of the following formats do you think should be explored (please select all that apply)?                                   

4. To help us decide whether we should pilot news ways for victim statements to be made, we need to identify any potential impacts that any changes may have.

Do you envisage any potential implications for you/your organisation if we were to pilot different ways of victim statement being made?

5. Are there any other aspects of the current victim statement scheme which you consider could be improved?

Other considerations

We are also seeking views on any other aspects of the current victim statement scheme which you consider could be improved.

For example, from discussions with stakeholders during the development of this consultation we received comments on issues such as: the format and structure of the current victim statement form which the victim is required to complete; the emotional impact on victims of completing the statement; and support that is available to victims to help them do this.

Examples of victim statement schemes in other jurisdictions are provided in Annex B of the consultation paper.

6. Do you have any views on whether we should consider amending the definition of who is eligible to make a victim statement (as set out in section 14 of the 2003 Act), to help ensure all relevant victims are able to make a statement if they wish?

This would, for example, ensure the statutory aggravation related to a child in the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, would trigger the right for a child named as being involved in the offence to make a victim statement.

Victim definition considerations

Another potential issue we are aware of relates to developments in criminal law in some areas whereby people who are recognised as victims in the relevant legislation may not always be captured by the definition of who is currently eligible to make a victim statement (as set out in section 14 of the 2003 Act).

For example, a new statutory aggravation related to a child provided for in the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 which can be attached to the domestic abuse offence (we propose adding this offence to the list of victim statement eligibility). This applies where an offence of domestic abuse is committed by a partner towards their partner or ex-partner which includes using the child as an ‘instrument’ of the abuse, the child is present during the abuse or the child is likely to be adversely affected. 

In this context, the child, in some circumstances, may be considered a victim and would therefore be entitled to make a statement under the existing scheme. However, in other circumstances, depending on the manner in which the aggravation is triggered, then the entitlement to make a victim statement would not apply.

We are also aware of other circumstances in which the current eligibility set out the 2003 Act does not reflect those people who were in reality most closely connected to a deceased victim, or most directly affected by the offence.

An amendment to section 14 of the 2003 Act to address these issues would require primary legislation and, as such, it is not something we plan to do alongside changes to the scope of the current scheme. We are interested in views, however, as to whether this is something we should explore in the future to ensure a wider category of victims can be captured by the scheme.

7. Are there any data protection related issues that you feel could arise from the proposals set out in this paper?

Impact assessments

We propose to carry out impact assessments alongside the development of any new legislation which would be required to implement changes to the current victim statement scheme. 

These include a Data Protection Impact Assessment and an Equality Impact Assessment (related to the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation). We would be interested in your views on these areas to help us in developing these assessments.

8. Are there any equality related issues that you feel could arise from the proposals set out in this paper?