MSPs back plans to extend recorded evidence for child domestic abuse witnesses
A Holyrood committee has agreed to back proposals to extend the use of pre-recorded evidence to child witnesses of domestic abuse.
The Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill has been under consideration by MSPs since being introduced by the Scottish Government in June last year.
The legislation would create a rule that child witnesses in solemn court cases would record evidence in advance of a trial for a list of offences, including murder and sexual offences.
It is aimed at ending their involvement in trials swiftly, allowing for quicker recovery.
An amendment brought forward by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf (pictured) called for solemn domestic abuse cases to be added to the list of offences where the pre-recording rule applies.
It has also been suggested that the process could at some stage be rolled out in phases to vulnerable adult witnesses.
On Tuesday at the Scottish Parliament, the Justice Committee agreed to back Mr Yousaf’s amendment.
Speaking at the committee, the Justice Secretary described it as an “ambitious step”.
He said: “The impact of domestic abuse on children is traumatic and distressing and it is important that we take progressive action to improve the experiences of child witnesses in domestic abuse solemn cases.
“I listened carefully to the evidence given to the Justice Committee and found those views to be compelling.
“I am grateful to the Committee for their consideration of this important issue and agree that the remit of our proposed pre-recording rule should be extended to child witnesses in the most serious domestic abuse cases.
“With less than three weeks to go until the new Domestic Abuse Act is commenced, I am pleased the Justice Committee has agreed to 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.”
Margaret Mitchell MSP, convener of the Justice Committee, said: “The Committee welcomed this amendment and the fact the Government is taking on board the recommendations we made in this area.
“These changes demonstrate the important role of Committee scrutiny and the importance of stakeholders engaging with the Committees about bills.”
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Cowan / Scottish Parliament / PA Wire.