Child witnesses could have evidence pre-recorded in serious domestic abuse cases

Child witnesses could have evidence pre-recorded in serious domestic abuse cases

Humza Yousaf

Child witnesses could be entitled to have their evidence pre-recorded in the most serious domestic abuse cases, under Scotland’s proposed vulnerable witnesses legislation.

The Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Bill, currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament, creates a new rule that child witnesses in solemn cases will pre-record their evidence in advance of a trial for a number of offences, including murder and sexual offences.

There was support during the Justice Committee’s Stage 1 hearings for the list of offences in the bill to be extended to domestic abuse cases.

In response to a recommendation by the cross-party committee, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has lodged an amendment to the bill that would, if approved by MSPs, extend the provisions for child witnesses in domestic abuse solemn cases.

Children in these cases would generally no longer have to give evidence in court, but would instead have their evidence pre-recorded ahead of the trial. This would end their involvement in the trial sooner and allow for quicker recovery.

Mr Yousaf said: “With just four weeks to go until the new Domestic Abuse Act is commenced, I am pleased to have been able to propose this important amendment which could have a very positive impact on some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children.

“The Scottish government is committed to ensuring these further significant reforms to criminal procedure are delivered in a phased, considered and effective way, so we can achieve our shared goal of improving the experiences of the most vulnerable witnesses in our justice system.”

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