The creation of a victims’ commissioner and a consultation on scrapping the not proven verdict have been announced as part of SNP justice policies ahead of May’s election.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said his party “is on your side and on the side of our communities” when it comes to criminal justice.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the PA news agency over the weekend the controversial not proven verdict – which is unique to Scotland – should be “looked at”.
The Justice Secretary, who is also standing as a candidate in Glasgow Pollok, confirmed the party would launch a consultation into the verdict, which he said jurors sometimes struggle to understand and victims and their families say causes “significant distress”.
A number of political parties have voiced their opposition to the verdict, making the policy one that looks destined to pass Holyrood, regardless of the parliamentary status.
“In recognition of the strong case that has been made for its abolition, we will consult on the removal of the not proven verdict,” Mr Yousaf said in a speech.
“We will work with all parties and with relevant stakeholders to take forward reform of Scotland’s justice system.
“The SNP Government is on your side and on the side of our communities.
“We will use all of our experience to do whatever we can to keep Scotland safe and continue to cut crime and help victims.”
Under SNP plans, a victims’ commissioner will also be created to “challenge” the Scottish Government and legal authorities on behalf of victims.
Mr Yousaf said: “The commissioner will provide an independent voice to victims and witnesses and review the provision of victims’ services.
“Where necessary, they will provide challenge to the government and those right across the justice system if there are steps we need to take to improve a victim’s justice journey.”
The SNP has also looked to Scandinavia to revamp its policies on children in the justice system, with the creation of what it calls the “Bairn’s Hoose”.
The facilities would act as a single point of contact for children involved in the criminal justice system.
“In Scotland we will introduce the Bairn’s Hoose, these centres will operate on the principle that the needs of children in criminal cases are totally different from adults in the same situation,” Mr Yousaf said.
“The child will be the centre of their work and we will ensure that every child, victim or witness, will have access to a Bairn’s Hoose by 2025.”
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