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Know your rights: the criminal justice process

As a survivor of gender-based violence, engaging with the criminal justice process as a witness after a perpetrator is charged can be a daunting and stressful prospect. Please know that the SWRC are here to support you. We can help explain the process so that you know what to expect. We can also make you aware of your rights and provide information about a range of support services that may be available to provide emotional and practical support to you.

This blog provides some brief information about what you should expect from the criminal justice process as a survivor of gender-based violence, and explains your rights as set out in the Scottish Government’s Victims’ Code for Scotland.

For more information or to access support services, contact our helpline.


YOUR RIGHT TO FAIR AND EQUAL TREATMENT

Criminal justice agencies should ensure that you have fair and equal access to services throughout the process. You should be treated with dignity and respect at all times and not subjected to judgement or discrimination based on background, age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, race, nationality, religion, belief, or sexual orientation. You can ask for additional support and reasonable adjustments to be made to ensure that you have access to information and services.


YOUR RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Where appropriate and relevant, you have the right to obtain information about what is happening in the investigation or proceedings. In some situations, you may prefer that all contact with you about your case be made through an advocacy worker to give you more control over when and where you receive information. You have the right to request this. In certain instances, you can also receive information on the release of offenders via the victim notification scheme.


YOUR RIGHT TO PARTICIPATION

It is important that you understand any questions you are asked and any information you are given so that you are able to communicate effectively when giving answers and providing information. If you think it would help, a person of your choice can support you whilst making a statement to the police. As a survivor of gender-based violence you can specify the gender of the interviewing officer. You also have the right to request a translator if required. In some cases, you may be eligible to provide a victim statement to the court. This gives you the chance to tell the court, in your own words, how the crime has affected you physically, emotionally, or financially. If an offender is due to be released, you may also be able to provide a statement about your views on this.


YOUR RIGHT TO PROTECTION

Your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing should be protected throughout the criminal justice process. This includes preserving your privacy, keeping you safe and limiting any re-traumatisation during interviews. As a survivor of gender-based violence you may be entitled to civil protection measures such as an interdict or a non-harassment order. You can find out more information about civil protective measures on our blog.

If you have further questions, you can speak to a SWRC solicitor for free and confidential legal information. If you need to access legal representation e.g. to get a protective order, you can contact us for information or support to access this. We may be able to represent you. If not, and you are on benefits or low income, you may be able to get legal aid to help pay the costs. More information on this is available from the Scottish Legal Aid Board website.


YOUR RIGHT TO SUPPORT

Any woman affected by gender-based violence has a right to access support services whether or not the abuse has been reported to the police. The SWRC can signpost you to services which can provide you with emotional support, practical help, and essential information appropriate to your own needs and circumstances.

If as a survivor of gender-based violence you are required to attend court as a witness or a complainer, you are considered to be a vulnerable witness. This means you have automatic access to special measures in court. These include:

  • A remote web link which allows you to give live evidence at a secure location outside the courtroom.
  • A screen that will obscure you from the perpetrator.
  • A supporter to attend court with and sit near you while you give your evidence.

If there is a significant risk that the quality of your evidence will be weakened due to mental ill heath or because of the fear or distress connected to giving evidence, or if there is a significant risk of harm associated with you giving evidence, you can apply for additional special measures such as a closed court.

You can also request:

  • A separate waiting area.
  • A pre-court visit.
  • Wheelchair access.
  • A loop system if you have hearing difficulties.
  • An interpreter if English is not your first language.

The SWRC can talk you through how to apply for special measures and offer support as appropriate.


YOUR RIGHT TO COMPENSATION AND EXPENSES

If you attend court as a witness, you are entitled to claim for reasonable expenses such as the cost of travel to and from court and an allowance for meals. Exceptional expenses such as for air travel or overnight accommodation must be approved in advance. If you are employed or registered as self-employed you may be able to make a claim for loss of earnings, up to a limit. If you need to arrange additional care for children or other people you care for, the costs can be reimbursed at a fixed rate.

If you have been physically or mentally injured because of the abuse that you were subjected to, you may be entitled to compensation. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is responsible for administering the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme throughout England, Scotland, and Wales. They pay compensation to eligible applicants who are survivors of a violent crime, for example a physical assault or sexual offence. You can find more information about applying for Criminal Injuries Compensation, including time limits for applying and the circumstances in which the amount of compensation may be reduced or withheld here. You can contact the SWRC if you require additional information or support with regards to Criminal Injuries Compensation.

If your property was taken for evidence, it will in most cases be returned to you by the police once the court case has concluded.


YOUR RIGHT TO COMPLAIN

As a survivor of gender-based violence, if you think any of your rights have been breached you can complain to the relevant criminal justice agency. If you need assistance to do this, we can provide information and support around the process of making a complaint.

If you are considering reporting gender-based violence to the police you may find it helpful to read our leaflets on your rights when reporting. If you are looking for further information, support to report, or as your case progresses, we can assist you with access ing information, support, and advocacy services before, during and after:

  • Reporting to the police.
  • The investigation.
  • The court process.


Useful resources

Scottish Womens Rights Centre: 0141 331 4183

The SWRC offers a safe and confidential service to support you to understand your rights and empower you to make informed choices.

You can contact the SWRC Helpline on 08088 010 789 at the following times,

Monday 1pm - 4pm
Tuesday 10am - 1pm
Wednesday 1pm - 4pm
Friday 10am - 1pm

Scottish Womens Aid

Email: info@womensaid.scot

Telephone: 0131 226 6606

Rape Crisis Scotland

Website: https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/

Telephone (General enquiries): 0141 331 4180 (9am-4pm, Mon-Fri)

Helpline: 08088 01 03 02 (Any day between 6pm – midnight)

Victim Support Scotland

Website: https://victimsupport.scot/

Telephone: 0800 160 1985 (8am-8pm, Mon-Fri)

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)

Website: https://www.cica-claims.co.uk/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-9D_39zy9QIVRevtCh1vGA2-EAAYASAAEgK49_D_BwE

Telephone: 0333 3581 999

Scottish Legal Aid Board

Website: https://www.slab.org.uk/

Telephone: 0131 226 7061

Just Right Scotland

Website: https://www.justrightscotland.org.uk/need-help/legal-surgeries-helplines/

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Helpline

08088 010 789

Our helpline is currently available at the following times:

- Tuesdays between 1PM and 4PM

- Wednesdays between 10AM and 1PM

Important: from 10 January 2022 our helpline is temporarily moving to a new format. You can read more about these changes here.

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