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Trial scheme launched to improve experience of domestic abuse victims in courts

A new pilot scheme aims to improve the links between prosecutors and victims of domestic abuse (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
A new pilot scheme aims to improve the links between prosecutors and victims of domestic abuse (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Prosecutors are “determined” to increase the confidence that victims have in the criminal justice system, Scotland’s Lord Advocate said after the launch of a pilot scheme to improve the experience for survivors of domestic abuse.

The initiative sets out to transform the service offered to those who have experienced domestic abuse by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

The pilot scheme means victims in cases being dealt with at Dundee, Hamilton and Paisley Sheriff Courts should benefit from more direct engagement with those prosecuting the offences.

Speaking about the scheme, Scotland’s top prosecutor, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, said: “We recognise that the justice process can be overwhelming for victims of crime.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain accepted the justice system could be ‘overwhelming’ for victims of abuse (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Prosecutors do not underestimate the strain that navigating the complexities of the system can add to the experience of being a victim of crime.

“The pilot looks at what we offer to address the concerns of many victims, to ensure we are meeting their needs by offering earlier, more direct and proactive communications with a prosecutor.”

Ms Bain said: “We are determined to increase the confidence of victims in the criminal justice system.”

The pilot will see victims offered telephone contact with a prosecutor at the early stage of a domestic abuse case, with face-to-face meetings set up ahead of trials in some cases.

It is hoped the changes will mean victims will be given clear explanations of the progress of their case, and understand better the role of the prosecutor.

The scheme has the backing of the Assist organisation, which provides support to victims.

Its operations manager, Fiona McMullen, said: “The journey to justice can be complex and confusing for victims in domestic abuse cases.

“Victims have told us that contact from a procurator fiscal depute can help them to feel listened to and included.

“Assist welcomes the strategy for enhanced engagement with victims during the pilot.”