Chapter 7 – Overall Report Conclusions/Future
366. As The Strategy moves towards its tenth anniversary there is a consensus that in general the focus on the victim has continued to improve. There is a feeling that the pace of this improvement has slowed more recently.
367. We attribute this to three factors:
368. The public are becoming used to much more responsive public (and private) services. As users of these services, they have become accustomed to receiving or being able to access relevant and timely information.
369. Set against this backdrop, information provision to victims from the police and COPFS appears not to match this wider trend.
370. Within both the police and COPFS, policies have changed over recent years as new legislation was passed and new initiatives launched. This brought necessary and welcome improvements.
371. Overall however it meant that service provision to victims has become quite complex particularly where policies overlap. Staff awareness and practice have not always kept pace with these strategic intentions and supporting policies.
372. Both the police and COPFS have brought strong leadership focus and supporting structures to bear on the needs of victims. That said, the needs of victims and witnesses have become entwined as portfolios within both organisations. This apparently convenient confluence has been signalled by the national Victims Steering Group becoming less active and attention turning instead to the national Witness Issues Group.
373. The police and COPFS rely on good witnesses to achieve successful investigations and prosecutions. It is not surprising therefore that the improved delivery of services to support witnesses has to an extent overtaken, and on occasion eclipsed, the needs of the majority of victims who do not achieve this status within the criminal justice system.
374. This inspection did not uncover any new or particularly complex needs from victims. Indeed in many cases the unmet needs we did encounter were already catered for within the existing policies of both organisations. This simplifies the task ahead and should concentrate minds on fulfilling current intentions.
375. Finally a significant element of the practical and emotional support that forms the second strand of The Strategy may be reasonably viewed by the police and COPFS as being better provided by other agencies.
376. The police having the initial contact with most victims have a principal role in ensuring that the appropriate information is passed to those agencies. In doing so we have commented on the need to ensure informed consent prior to passing enough, just enough, information to allow services to be tailored to victims' needs. Whilst doing so we have also highlighted the need to consider the wider implications to the potential prosecution case.
377. Although beyond the scope of this inspection we were struck by the variable and at times highly fragile nature of support to victims being provided by the voluntary sector. The Strategy does not seek to prioritise between its three strands and yet the governance and accountability for delivering support services to victims differs significantly across the three strands and between public and voluntary sectors.
378. Within the current review of The Strategy there is the opportunity to consider that amount of public money being provided to the voluntary sector, the method of distributing it and the best approach to ensuring services are provided effectively and particularly consistently across Scotland.