Scotland’s first specialised evidence and hearings suite opens in Glasgow
New specialised evidence facilities in Glasgow have been formally opened.
The Glasgow Evidence and Hearings Suite provides facilities to let child witnesses pre-record their evidence and for vulnerable witnesses to give evidence remotely. The suite also provides hearing rooms for the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.
The suite was opened today by Lady Dorrian, Lord Justice Clerk and Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service’s purpose-built suite was constructed with £2 million funding from the Scottish government.
Its design incorporates hearing rooms for the pre-recording of evidence that aim to be child-friendly, “live link” rooms for evidence given by TV link to court, waiting rooms and support spaces.
Lady Dorrian said: “Our earlier work on the Evidence and Procedure Review highlighted that subjecting children to the traditional adversarial form of examination and cross-examination at court is no longer acceptable; is unlikely to elicit the best quality of evidence and has the potential to cause further distress.
“This new suite will help children and vulnerable witnesses to give their best evidence, and have it tested, in a supportive environment, still respecting the need for a fair trial. Trauma-informed staff will manage the hearings and live TV links to court, taking account of the specific needs or vulnerabilities of the witness. This is another significant step in improving the way in which children and vulnerable witnesses are treated in our criminal justice system.”
Mr Yousaf said: “We are working closely with SCTS and other partners to improve the experiences of children and vulnerable witnesses in the justice system, and this excellent new facility provides the technical quality required, with professional and supportive staff, within an environment designed to enable them to give their best evidence in criminal trials.
“Today we have laid commencement regulations in Parliament to ensure that any child witness under the age of 18 giving evidence in the most serious cases will be allowed to have it pre-recorded, sparing them the trauma of giving evidence during a trial. This first phase of implementing the new pre-recording rule will cover certain cases in the High Court. Modern facilities and technology play a vital role in delivering this change and I am pleased the Scottish government has supported the development of this venue.”
SCTS chief executive Eric McQueen added: “This is the first of four suites we are providing in Scotland, others will be created in Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen.
“There is now a coalition of judiciary, practitioners, voluntary organisations and politicians who have combined to bring about substantial change – change which should make the experience of children and vulnerable witnesses encountering the criminal justice system so much better, and more suitable in securing their best evidence.”