Victim's Taskforce To Meet

12 December 2018, 07:27 | Updated: 12 December 2018, 09:31

Jail

An expert group established to improve victims' experiences of the Scottish justice system is meeting for the first time later on Wednesday.

Victims Taskforce will bring together representatives of justice agencies, the legal profession, academia and the voluntary sector to discuss improving the support, advice and information available to crime victims.

The panel will also will hear directly from victims on their experiences of accessing justice.

Campaigner Lynn Burns, whose son Sam Johnston was murdered in 2013 in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, is one of the members of the group attending the first meeting.

Ms Burns, who has campaigned for greater support for victims, particularly bereaved families, said: "When our son Sam was murdered my family felt uninformed, unheard, isolated and alone.

"I know that many families have also felt this way.

"At times it felt like there was little clarity and transparency. It does not seem unreasonable to be able to expect scrutiny or ask questions when you are in the most traumatic of situations.

"I am hopeful that the Victims Taskforce will address this and, by putting people at the centre of the system, treating them with care, compassion and kindness - to help victims and families feel that their voices are being heard and acknowledged."

The taskforce is being co-chaired by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Scotland's top prosecutor, Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.

The group of more than 20 members - including Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone and Sandy Brindley, the chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland - is expected to meet every quarter.

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.

"One of the first items for us to discuss will be how we broaden our engagement with victims and witnesses and ensure that the taskforce is directly informed by them."

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