Information for Bereaved Family and Friends Following Murder or Culpable Homicide
Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014
On 12th December 2013, the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament. The Bill received Royal Assent in January 2014, and the various measures in the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 ('the 2014 Act') will be brought into force over 2014 and 2015. The central aim of the 2014 Act is to improve the experience of victims and witnesses of crime within the Scottish justice system.
A number of changes brought in by the 2014 Act mean that there have been updates to information contained in this booklet since it was published. This leaflet should be read alongside the current guidance booklet to update you on the new provisions.
4.15 Victim statements
Previously, only children aged 14 and over could make a victim statement in their own right. The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 lowers this minimum age to 12 years and over. Children under 12 will still be able to have a victim statement made by a parent or carer on their behalf.
5.1 The Victim Notification Scheme
Prior to the commencement of the relevant parts of the 2014 Act, victims who were registered for part 2 of the Victim Notification Scheme (VNS) were given the opportunity to send written representations (comments) to either the Parole Board (long-term offenders, offenders with extended sentences) or Scottish Ministers (in cases of short-term sex offenders) to explain in their own words anything they feel is relevant to the decision about whether the offender can be released, including fears of contact and reasons to believe the offender remains a danger to the public, members of the victim's family or the victim themselves.
The 2014 Act now allows victims, or certain relatives of the victim, the opportunity to make these representations orally where these relate to life-sentence prisoners. Representations which are made orally will be made to a member of the Parole Board who is not sitting on the tribunal panel making the decision about the offender's release. The representation will then be transcribed and agreed with you before it's added to the prisoner's dossier containing all relevant information which the tribunal will consider when making their decision. The prisoner will get to see the written report of your oral representations in their dossier. The letter that will be sent to you to ask for your representations will provide contact details
for the Parole Board so that you can ask for a meeting to be arranged at a time and place that is convenient for you. If it is more convenient for you for this to be done by telephone then this will be arranged at an appropriate time.
If you send written comments or make oral representations to the Parole Board, the offender is likely to see them.
5.3 Consideration for release
Prior to the commencement of the relevant parts of the 2014 Act, victims were able to choose to be notified when a prisoner first became eligible for temporary release. However, they were not able to make representations to the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) about this.
The 2014 Act allows victims (or where the victim has died, certain relatives) the opportunity to make written representations to SPS about any licence conditions the victim considers should be imposed when the offender first becomes eligible for temporary release.
SPS will advise you of the date by which written representations must be received when they write to notify you that the prisoner is eligible for temporary release. This period is generally 14 days from the date on the letter. SPS will write to you to let you know of any licence conditions set which are specific to you.