Consultation aims to deliver ‘trauma-informed’ justice system for sex offence victims

A consultation on making the justice system more “trauma informed” for victims of sexual offences has opened in Scotland.

May 13, 2022
By Paul Jacques
Justice Secretary Keith Brown

This would include establishing a Victims’ Commissioner and introducing a statutory right to anonymity for complainers in sexual offence cases.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “The Scottish government recognises that the justice system can be distressing and re-traumatising for those who come into contact with it. We are committed to improving victims’ experiences of the system by putting them at its centre.

“This consultation explores how to do this by making the justice system more trauma-informed and person-centred.

“It is an important part of far-reaching and ambitious plans to bring about transformational change necessary to ensure our justice system is trusted, modern, smart and effective.

“We will continue to take an open and collaborative approach to achieve this aim, and this consultation will seek to capture the views of legal professionals, the third sector and those with experience of the system.”

The 12-week consultation takes forward the work of the Victims Taskforce and Lady Dorrian’s review into the management of sexual offence cases.

The Scottish government said while the review’s recommendations relate to victims of sexual offences experiences of the justice system, the consultation recognises that “the themes of the review have wider applicability across the system and offer the potential to drive transformational change for the broader benefit of all users”.

“Some of the proposals relate to issues relevant to victims of any crime, others are specific to victims of sexual crime,” it added.

The consultation is part of a wide-ranging programme of work to transform the justice system and deliver the Scottish government’s new ‘Vision for Justice’ that puts people at the heart of the system.

In addition to establishing a Victims’ Commissioner for Scotland and developing a more trauma-informed and person-centred approach for victims, proposals include:

  • Special measures to assist vulnerable parties involved in civil cases;
  • Review of the requirement for people accused of crimes to provide details of their proposed defence in a statement provided to the court;
  • New statutory underpinning for anonymity for complainers in sexual offence cases;
  • Independent legal representation for sexual offence complainers where a request is made to lead evidence in court which relates to their sexual history and/or bad character;
  • The potential establishment of a specialist sexual offences court; and
  • Consideration of the issues relating to single judge trials for serious sexual offence cases.

The consultation closes on August 5.

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