Laudable as the aims of the Scottish Government’s Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill are (“Offenders must pay costs of crime victim support”, your report, 3 June), these and other recommendations to improve justice will come to nothing unless the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and the Scottish Courts Service take urgent action in respect of the current serious administration and workload problems existing in our courts.
Unfortunately, instead of facing up to them I believe there is evidence of a massaging and manipulating of figures to cover up the real causal factors.
During my research I have come across instances of waiting time targets apparently being manipulated by calling cases and then adjourning them in a similar way to the NHS waiting times scandal.
Unrealistic plea bargaining and the inappropriate use of fiscal fines leads to accused escaping the full responsibility for their actions. There is even evidence of hundreds of cases being abandoned to save court time. Time and time again victims and witnesses are turning up at court only to be sent home because some aspect of their case is not ready.
Causes can range from a failure to process information timeously to ineffective precognition of witnesses leading to their turning up at court unable or unwilling to give reliable evidence or speak to the testimony already passed onto the police or procurator fiscal.
Information previously in the hands of court officials which would prevent witnesses having to attend court is also not being passed on. There is little doubt that the court system is a stressful lottery for many victims and witnesses. The end result is a feeling among victims that justice is a fiction as they see accused apparently “getting away with it” while they are re-traumatised by having to return to court time and time again.
Witnesses, on the other hand, become quietly determined never willingly to enter the court system again.
While I welcome the philosophy behind the current recommendations I fear they will come to nothing until the existing chaos is addressed.
Iain A J McKie
South Beach Road