Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is urging local people to engage in proposals for a new Victims Law.
Mr Cameron issued his call after fellow Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene launched his Member’s Bill consultation to overhaul Scotland’s justice system and put victims of crime at its heart.
Mr Cameron, who has served as an advocate at the Scottish Bar, said: “I share the concern across our communities that our justice system too often neglects the victims of crime. The consultation for Jamie Greene’s bill provides local people with an opportunity to have their say on how we can redress this. We need to see people’s faith in the system restored and the consultation should play a part in achieving that."
“The consultation can be accessed at www.victimslaw.org.”
The wide-ranging plans for a Victims Law would make seven key changes to the justice system:
- Abolishing the controversial Not Proven verdict
- Implementing Michelle’s Law to give victims a voice when criminals are considered for release
- Implementing Suzanne’s Law to prevent the release of killers if they refuse to say where a victim’s body is buried
- Giving all victims the opportunity to make statements in court
- Ensuring victims are always notified if no further action is taken on their case
- Reforming the Victim Notification Scheme
- Introducing statutory timescales for Fatal Accident Inquiries
Our Victims Law proposal would remove the not proven verdict from Scots Law. This would switch Scotland to a two-verdict system of guilty and not guilty to end this historical anomaly and the confusion it causes. The verdict can cause extra trauma for victims and is disproportionately used in sexual offence cases which may lead to guilty people walking free. This is why the verdict has to go.
Our Victims Law proposal would implement Michelle’s Law by allowing victim to request criminals be given exclusion zones when they are released from prison. This would give victims and their families reassurance that they would not bump into the criminal in their local community as it would require criminals to stay away from a given area. This proposal would apply when criminals are released on licence or for temporary release. Currently no such right for victims exists.
Our Victims Law proposal would implement Michele’s Law by allowing victims to speak directly when criminals are considered for release. Currently victims are not allowed to speak directly when a criminal is being considered for release. This proposal would allow victims and their families the opportunity to speak directly during parole hearings and to prison governors when criminals are being considered for release.
Our Victims Law proposal would implement Michelle’s Law by giving victims the reasons for a release decision in full and require their safety to be considered. Currently, only summaries of decisions are provided to victims in cases of parole and these summaries do not include how the safety and welfare of victims and their families are factored in to any release decision. Our proposal would provide them the reason for a parole board or prison governor’s decision to release a criminal in full.
Our Victims Law proposal would implement Suzanne’s Law by giving authorities the ability to deny a killer’s release from prison if they continue to hide the location of where they buried the body. When killers are considered for release, either on licence or for temporary release, authorities currently do not have the power to prevent the release of the killer for the reason that the killer has failed to disclose the location of where they’ve buried their victim’s body. Our proposal would give this option to parole boards when considering release on licence and prison governors when considering applications for temporary release.
Our Victims Law proposal would allow all victims of crime to make a victim statement to court. This would allow all victims to tell the court in their own words how a crime has affected them. Our proposal would also explore different ways such a statement could be made to court as well as who can make a statement to court if the victim is deceased.
Our Victims Law proposal would enshrine the right of all victims to be notified of a decision not to prosecute their case. This currently does not happen in Scotland and would enable more victims to take up their right to review this decision. This would allow more victims to get the justice they deserve by seeing their case rightfully prosecuted.
Our Victims Law proposal would overhaul the Victim Notification Scheme to boost take-up of the scheme and make it more sensitive to victims’ needs. The low take-up of the scheme combined with the eligibility requirements mean not enough victims are getting updates about their offender. Furthermore, these updates need to be more regular and trauma-informed to prevent causing further harm to the victim as is currently the case.
Our Victims Law proposal would impose mandatory timescales for completing Fatal Accident Inquiries. This would ensure that families get the answers they deserve in a timely manner so that they can get closure. Our proposal would also consider expanding the scenarios where mandatory FAIs are held.