New group aims to al­le­vi­ate dis­tress for vic­tims of crime

The Herald on Sunday - - VOICES -

A TASK­FORCE set up to en­sure the jus­tice sys­tem does not worsen “trauma and dis­tress” of crime vic­tims is to meet for the first time next month.

Co- chaired by Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Humza Yousaf and Lord Ad­vo­cate James Wolffe QC, the group will take ev­i­dence from vic­tims on their ex­pe­ri­ences of ac­cess­ing jus­tice.

It aims to pro­vide sup­port and in­for­ma­tion, and make their progress through the sys­tem eas­ier.

The meet­ing comes as cam­paign­ers call for the cre­ation of a vic­tims’ com­mis­sioner to help peo­ple hit by crime.

The fam­ily of Shaun Wood­burn, who died after be­ing at­tacked by a teenager out­side a pub in the Leith area of Ed­in­burgh in the early hours of Jan­uary 1, 2017, met Mr Yousaf last week.

Kevin Wood­burn, the vic­tim’s fa­ther, said his ex­pe­ri­ences had led him to feel there was a lack of trans­parency within the over­all le­gal sys­tem.

He praised the work of vic­tims’ sup­port groups but said their ex­per­tise is in emo­tional, rather than le­gal, is­sues.

The Vic­tims Task­force will meet for the first time in Ed­in­burgh on De­cem­ber 12. Mr Yousaf said: “While the long-term fall in crime over the last decade means fewer peo­ple fall prey to crim­i­nals in Scot­land, where any­one is a vic­tim it is es­sen­tial the jus­tice sys­tem and wider pub­lic ser­vices pro­vide the best pos­si­ble sup­port and ad­vice to them and their loved-ones.

“As part of our work to fur­ther im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence of vic­tims and wit­nesses through the jus­tice sys­tem, we are in­vest­ing £ 17.9 mil­lion this year through char­i­ties and other agen­cies work­ing to sup­port vic­tims. I am pleased the task­force will be gath­er­ing in a mat­ter of weeks to be­gin its vi­tal work. It will be di­rectly in­formed by vic­tims’ ex­pe­ri­ences and will play a key role in the de­liv­ery of our com­mit­ments to en­sure vic­tims’ voices are heard through­out the jus­tice sys­tem.”

The Lord Ad­vo­cate said: “The pro­vi­sion of ap­pro­pri­ate and mean­ing­ful sup­port to the vic­tims of crime is part of a mod­ern crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Pros­e­cu­tors can only do their job of de­liv­er­ing jus­tice if vic­tims and wit­nesses are will­ing to come for­ward and give ev­i­dence.

“The task­force rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence of vic­tims, to re­as­sure them that the sys­tem will pro­vide sup­port and give them con­fi­dence to come for­ward, speak up and make sure their voices are heard.”

Shaun Wood­burn died after an at­tack

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