Victims of crime to get support from charge on criminals’ fines

Convicted criminals who are fined by the courts could soon have to pay money towards supporting victims of crime.
Humza Yousaf MSP.Humza Yousaf MSP.
Humza Yousaf MSP.

A victim surcharge would be levied on top of all fines in Scottish courts, with the money going towards a fund that can be used by organisations supporting victims.

Victims and support organisations would be able to apply to the fund for the costs of providing short-term and practical support, such as new windows and locks for burglary victims or funeral expenses for families of murder victims.

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Under the plan, victim surcharges would range from £10 on fines up to £200, to £350 on fines between £5,000.01 and £10,000, while court-ordered fines of more than £10,000 would incur a charge of £7.5 per cent of the fine.

The proposal will be voted on by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday and, if approved, will apply to all crimes committed on or after 25 November, 2019, with payments from the fund starting six to 12 months later.

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Experiencing crime can be an isolating and frightening experience and we are committed to improving the experiences of victims in our justice system.

“It’s only right that criminals should pay towards helping victims to recover and move on with their lives.

“The money raised through the surcharge will pay for practical support that will make a real difference to victims and their families.

“While Scotland’s long-term fall in crime means fewer people fall prey to criminals, we are continuing to invest £18 million annually to improve support, advice and information for victims.

“This new fund will be a valuable addition to support available and we have worked with the UK government to ensure the necessary legislative arrangements are in place to allow its operation. Over the coming year we will also be carrying out further work to better understand where the gaps are in how Scotland supports victims and witnesses.”

Scottish courts imposed 38,474 fines in 2017-18 and, while the amount of money available in the victim support fund will depend on crime levels and the types of punishments handed out by judges, the Scottish Government estimates that, after four or five years, the surcharge will raise approximately £800,000 a year.

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Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur hit out at the length of time it took to introduce surcharge.

He said: “This fund was a flagship feature of the Victims and Witnesses Act but it has taken six years to come into effect.

“Victims of crime have missed out on millions of pounds of criminals’ cash as a result of the SNP’s dithering.”