Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill
The Bill makes changes to the law to try to improve the experience of victims and witnesses in the justice system. The Bill also makes changes to the criminal justice system to try to improve the fairness, clarity and transparency of the framework within which decisions in criminal cases are made.
The Bill is at Stage 1
The Bill covers a wide range of matters. Many of these relate to the experience of victims and witnesses in the justice process, especially sexual offence cases. The Bill also makes some broader reforms to the criminal justice process.
At its introduction, the Bill is split into six parts.
- creates the office of Victims and Witnesses Commissioner for Scotland
- embeds trauma-informed practice in criminal and civil courts
- increases the availability of special measures for vulnerable witnesses and parties in civil court proceedings
- changes the size of a criminal jury
- makes rules about majority verdicts and what happens when a juror is dismissed or unable to continue on the jury
- removes the not proven verdict
- creates a new sexual offences court and sets out how it will operates within the criminal justice system
- provides automatic life-long anonymity for victims of sexual offences
- gives complainers in sexual offence cases an automatic right to independent legal representation when an application is made to introduce evidence about the complainer’s character
- gives power to the Scottish Ministers to carry out a pilot of rape trials conducted by a single judge
Read more about what this Bill does in the explanatory notes (354KB, pdf) posted 25 April 2023
Why the Bill was created
The Bill aims to improve the experiences of victims and witnesses within Scotland’s justice system – in particular, the victims of sexual crime. In particular, the Bill aims to:
- strengthen the rights of victims and witnesses of crime
- embed trauma-informed practice across the justice system
- improve the experience of vulnerable victims, parties and witnesses
Part 4 of the Bill (removing the not proven verdict and changing the size of a jury in criminal trials) intends to improve the fairness, clarity and transparency of the framework within which decisions in criminal cases are made.
Read more about why this Bill has been created in the policy memorandum (1MB, pdf) posted 26 April 2023