1. The Scottish Government strategy document "The Scottish Strategy for Victims", hereinafter called The Strategy, was launched in 2001 in response to developments and research within Scotland, Europe and internationally and specifically the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power of 1985. The Strategy (which has been the subject of two progress reports and a review in 2003, 2004 and 2005) remains the leading Scottish Government strategic statement on the treatment of victims 3 and their place in the criminal justice system. It has at its focus the recognition that the needs of victims should be placed "right at the heart of our criminal justice system" 4. The Strategy was adopted by the Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS) and police and other agencies within the criminal justice community.
2. The principles of The Strategy are based on recognition that victims should be afforded a position of importance within the criminal justice system; that there is a need to support victims, that victims are entitled to information both about the criminal justice system and the case in which they are involved and that victims should have a voice in the criminal justice system. These broad strategic aims are intended to afford compassion and respect to victims. The Strategy is still extant, the essential objectives are still relevant and we have found unanimous agreement it is based on sound principles.
3. The three main objectives of The Strategy are:-
- To ensure information provision to victims (both in respect of the criminal justice system generally but also concerning the case in which they are involved);
- To ensure provision of emotional and practical support to victims;
- To achieve greater participation by victims in the criminal justice system.
4. While the Scottish Executive (as it was then known, now known as the Scottish Government) stated it would retain the leading role in developing The Strategy it sought and secured agreement that there would be a partnership approach to fulfilling its objectives. Both the police and COPFS respectively developed action plans to provide services to fulfil the aims and objectives of The Strategy. Since 2001 there have been an accompanying multitude of initiatives, specialist units formed, guidance notes issued, regulations and legislation passed by the Scottish Government.
5. Both the European and the Scottish strategic statements relating to victims are set to be reviewed in the near future. The European Justice Commissioner stated in March 2010 "As we work to ensure the rights of the suspected and the accused are fully enforced, we must equally look to the needs of those who fall victims of crime... We must not forget that the right to a fair trial applies as much to the victim as to the defendant........". 5 European legislation on the 'rights' of victims in the criminal justice system is anticipated in 2011. It is anticipated the Scottish Strategy for Victims will be reviewed, also in 2011, and this will both reflect the European position and strengthen and bolster the current strategy.
6. We therefore consider that it is an appropriate point in time to assess the position of victims within the criminal justice system.
7. This inspection will:
- examine whether the police forces and COPFS have, in their service provision, realised the strategic aims and objectives of the existing Scottish Strategy for Victims as far as it relates to them;
- examine whether those services currently provided by the police and COPFS meet the needs of victims;
- identify areas of good practice and assist in promulgation of these throughout Scotland;
- provide an update on progress of relevant previous inspection recommendations.
8. The inspection process is planned to be completed in four discrete phases. These are broadly defined as:-
- Phase 1 - summary crime 6 which does not result in court proceedings (eg the case dealt with by caution, warning letter, direct measure, no proceedings for any other reason…)
- Phase 2 - summary crime which results in court proceedings
- Phase 3 - more serious/solemn crime excluding sexual offences
- Phase 4 - sexual offences (to include inspection of the outcome of the COPFS "Review of the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences in Scotland" published in 2006 and the new Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009
9. All phases will examine provision of services from first reporting of the crime, normally by the victim, to conclusion of the case (whether court proceedings or not) including notification of prisoner release, which may well be some substantial time after initial contact. They will consider the effectiveness and appropriateness of such services from the victim's perspective. Each phase will be reported as it is completed.
10. Our inspection methodology is aligned with the Business Excellence Model of the European Foundation for Quality Management ( EFQM). Our investigations and evidence gathering for this report were carried out under the following EFQM headings:
- Policy and Strategy
- Partnership and Resources
- Results (people/societal/key performance)
and our report is written under these headings.
Our methodology included the following elements carried out predominantly in the spring and summer of 2010 :
- we carried out desk research examining current (and former) policies of Scottish Government, ACPOS, police forces and COPFS relating to their treatment of victims.
- we examined current strategic statements issued by the Scottish Government, ACPOS, police forces and COPFS relating to their treatment of victims.
- we considered the results of published research including the 2009 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey ( SCJS) 7.
- we considered previous inspection reports including recommendations, made by HMICS and IPS as far as these related to treatment of victims.
- we contacted a substantial number of key organisations or 'stakeholder groups' intimating the scope and nature of the inspection and inviting written submissions.
- we set up links on the HMICS and IPS websites intimating the scope and nature of the inspection and inviting submissions from any interested parties/organisations.
- we considered submissions received.
- to supplement written submissions we organised a programme of interviews to allow us to examine the perspectives of key organisations/'stakeholder' groups further and in more detail.
- we had meetings with those involved in the criminal justice systems of neighbouring jurisdictions (England & Wales and Eire).
- all police forces and COPFS were contacted and invited to contribute to the inspection process and to provide details of good practice.
- a number of police forces and corresponding COPFS Areas were visited where interviews were carried out with a range of staff
- we also interviewed voluntary sector staff providing services to victims in the above force and COPFS Areas
Building on the HMICS crime audit carried out in early 2010 particular information was sought regarding the management of three crime types with identifiable victims; minor assaults, vandalism and domestic abuse. Police records for 104 reported incidents for each of these categories in each of the 8 police force areas were examined against national and force policies for victim contact, information, advice and referral.
We looked at 627 cases, being all those cases reported to COPFS by the police in the above crime audit for offences relating to the three selected crime types with identifiable victims; minor assaults, vandalism and domestic abuse. Those cases which fell within the remit of Phase One were reviewed on IT systems used by COPFS to process cases and record actions. The cases were examined against COPFS policies for victim contact, information provision, advice and support referral.
Direct contact with victims
Working with Victim Support Scotland ( VSS), Scottish Women's Aid ( SWA) and its member groups and ASSIST8 we prepared and disseminated questionnaires to ascertain directly from victims their experience of service provision by police and COPFS. We sought to discover whether victims considered the services provided met their needs, whether this experience would affect their decision to report an incident in the future and their views as to what could be done to improve the current position.
11. We are grateful for the time and attention that staff across all agencies afforded this inspection but particularly acknowledge the invaluable assistance of VSS and SWA and ASSIST. Whilst acknowledging that this was additional to their daily work, we believe that their assistance has improved the quality of our evidence gathering and reduced the burden and discomfort on those the inspection is aimed at helping victims of crime.
12. We are particularly grateful to those individuals who gave of their time and shared their experiences as victims of crime and its aftermath.