The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has today launched a call for evidence into the Government’s new Vulnerable Witnesses Bill.
The Bill seeks to provide vulnerable witnesses and victims of crime with a better experience of the criminal justice system in Scotland. The main change the Bill would bring about is the greater use of pre-recorded statements and evidence for vulnerable witnesses in criminal cases, with an initial focus on child witnesses in the most serious cases.
The Committee will be closely examining the proposals in the Bill, to ensure they strike the right balance between child and other vulnerable witnesses and the accused.
Speaking as the call for evidence was launched, Committee Convener Margaret Mitchell MSP, said:
“The Justice Committee will be looking for a range of people to give their views on this Bill, including young people and those who have experience of similar systems internationally.
“The whole Committee would support avoiding retraumatising victims or witnesses – particularly if they are young, or in some other way vulnerable. However, we need to ensure the right balance is struck in the interests of justice.
“A new system to encourage the use of pre-recorded evidence would need to have the confidence of victims, witnesses and the wider legal system. Therefore, it is crucial that issues like what process would be used to give pre-recorded evidence, who it would benefit, and the way in which a new system is rolled out are properly debated in the Committee.”
The Committee specifically wants to hear opinions on a range of issues, including:
Is a new rule necessary when there are already some existing provisions?
How should a new system to pre-record evidence be rolled out to child and vulnerable witnesses? Should the roll-out be staggered?
What process should be used to give pre-recorded evidence?
And if there are views on the decision not to include under-18s accused of a crime in these measures?
The call for views is open until 29 August and can be accessed here.
The Bill as introduced by the Scottish Government, and associated documents are available here.