Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig

Loading…

Bills and Laws

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 2


Contents


Stage 1 - General principles

Committees examine the Bill and gather views. They produce reports before MSPs debate the Bill in the Chamber. MSPs then decide on the purpose (“general principles”) of the Bill.

The Bill ended Stage 1 on 23 April 2024

Committee Examination

The lead committee for this Bill is the Criminal Justice Committee

Find out more about this committee

Criminal Justice Committee’s approach to the Bill

The Criminal Justice Committee has agreed its intended approach to scrutiny of the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1. The Committee notes that the Bill contains several substantial policy proposals.

These include a new Victims and Witnesses Commissioner, changes to the size of juries, the abolition of the not proven verdict, a new Sexual Offences Court and a pilot of rape trials conducted by a single judge without a jury.

As such, we have decided to take a phased approach to our consideration of the Bill, to divide the Bill into more manageable segments for the purposes of Stage 1 and consider these separately, one after the other.

The Committee believes it is important to take the time to consider all the main provisions in the Bill in a thorough and balanced way.

Submit your views

The Committee launched its call for views on Monday 19 June 2023. The consultation closed on Friday 8 September 2023.

View the published responses

Glossary of Terms

A glossary of terms is being provided to help those responding to the Criminal Justice Committee’s Call for Views on the Bill understand various legal terms used in the Call for Views, the Bill and its accompanying documents.

Timetable

The timetable that the committee followed while examining the Bill at Stage 1

Stage 1 Deadline

On 28 June 2023, Parliament agreed motion S6M-09755, that consideration of the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill at stage 1 be completed by 29 March 2024.

On 13 March 2024, Parliament agreed motion S6M-12471, that consideration of the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill at stage 1 be extended to 26 April 2024.

Further information

The Committee has agreed the following phases for taking evidence from witnesses on the Bill—

Phase 1 – approximately mid-September to mid-November – this will cover Parts 1 to 3 of the Bill which:
• 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

Phase 2 – approximately mid-November to end-December – this will cover Part 4 of the Bill which:
• 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

Phase 3 – approximately January to mid-February – this will cover Parts 5 and 6 which:
• 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 without a jury

You can learn more about our phased approach to scrutiny of the Bill in our short explainer video.

Watch the video

Please note that the above information is for planning purposes only and it is subject to change.

The Committee will regularly provide updates on this page on its plans for scrutiny of the Bill, including the names of witnesses invited to give evidence, as this information is available.

Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 27 September 2023
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 4 October 2023
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 25 October 2023
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 1 November 2023
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 15 November 2023
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 29 November 2023
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 6 December 2023
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 13 December 2023
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 10 January 2024
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 17 January 2024
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 24 January 2024
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 31 January 2024
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 6 February 2024
Video Thumbnail Preview PNG
Meeting on 7 February 2024
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail
video thumbnail

Engagement

Other ways the committee heard views and experiences
Informal meetings

On Wednesday 6 December 2023, the Criminal Justice Committee undertook an informal meeting with survivors of sexual crime with experience of the criminal justice system to hear their views on the provisions of the Bill. An anonymised transcript of the discussion can be found here.

On Tuesday 16 January 2024, the Criminal Justice Committee undertook an informal meeting with the families of victims whose lives were taken during a criminal act to hear their views on the provisions of the Bill. An anonymised note of the discussion can be found here.

Correspondence

Committee correspondence sent and received while the Bill progressed through Parliament

Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform Bill Scottish Government Stage 1 Response

Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs to the Convener, 16 April 2024

Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1

Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs to the Convener, 16 April 2024

Clarification of Evidence following 7 February 2024 Evidence Session

Letter from the Crown Office and Prosecution Service to the Convener, 1 March 2024

Read all the correspondence received on this Bill

Work by other committees

Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee

Meeting on 24 October 2023
Meeting on 19 December 2023

Report published on 22 December 2023

Finance and Public Administration Committee

Scrutiny of the Financial Memorandum

Committee report

The lead committee published its Stage 1 report on 29 March 2024.

The lead committee received the following response from the Scottish Government to its Stage 1 Report on 16 April 2024.

Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs

Debate

MSPs debate the purpose (“general principles”) of the Bill.

Meeting on 23 April 2024

Video Thumbnail Preview PNG

Vote

MSPs vote on the general principles of the Bill.

Meeting on 23 April 2024

Video Thumbnail Preview PNG

Motion ref. S6M-12560

Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill: Financial Resolution

  • Submitted by: Shona Robison, Dundee City East, Scottish National Party.
  • Date lodged: Tuesday, 19 March 2024
  • Motion reference: S6M-12560
  • Current status: Taken in the Chamber on Tuesday, 23 April 2024

Motion ref. S6M-12922

Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill

  • Submitted by: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party.
  • Date lodged: Monday, 22 April 2024
  • Motion reference: S6M-12922
  • Current status: Taken in the Chamber on Tuesday, 23 April 2024

Result 60 for, 0 against, 62 abstained, 7 did not vote Vote Passed

MSPs agreed that this Bill could continue