New approach to better support victims and witnesses.
A new approach to equip justice agencies with the skills and knowledge needed to reduce the re-traumatisation of victims and witnesses of crime has been published today.
It underpins a key aim of the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, introduced last week, to embed trauma-informed practice across the justice system.
The Trauma-Informed Justice: A Knowledge and Skills Framework, enables justice organisations to support victims and witnesses in ways which minimises harm and re-traumatisation, support their recovery and enable the most effective evidence gathering.
Examples include, making each step of the process as transparent and understandable as possible and offering witnesses choices throughout the justice process, for example on the gender of their interviewer, how they are communicated with by justice agencies and providing information on the support they can access.
The new way of working, which was developed by NHS Education Scotland as part of an overall package of £440,000 Scottish Government funding, will also provide organisations with the tools to develop and deliver training to their workforce.
Justice Secretary Angela Constance said: “This framework will directly inform the changes within the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform Bill, which was introduced last week, and would put victims and witnesses of crime at the heart of the justice system and ensure justice agencies reduce re-traumatisation.
“For the justice process to work effectively, and to encourage people to report crime, victims and witnesses need to know that the services they encounter are designed to support and help them - and that those who work within those services, listen to and respect their needs.
“We recognise that every contact an individual has with the justice system can have a significant impact. Evidence shows that how we are treated affects our feelings about and confidence in justice processes - and that these experiences are often as important as the conclusion of a case or dispute. This framework will make sure that at all levels of the justice system we have an effective, trauma-informed approach which supports people at their most vulnerable.
“I want to thank all of the victims, witnesses and their families who have taken the time to share in their experiences of the justice system and inform the development of this framework.”
Dr Caroline Bruce, Head of Programme at NHS Education Scotland, said: “The most serious offences are often also those that are most traumatic for victims and witnesses. Without recognising the impact that such offences can have, the justice process itself risks unwittingly introducing further harm and trauma, and victims say they are less likely to come forward.
“This framework will help organisations develop training that will equip staff, no matter their role, with the knowledge and skills they need to recognise and respond effectively to the impact of trauma on witnesses. Trauma-informed justice is a win-win; for witnesses it will improve their experience of justice and their recovery, and for the justice process it will improve the quality of evidence witnesses are able to provide, and their willingness to come forward.
“Over the last decade, our National Trauma Training Programme has supported better skills and understanding for staff in all walks of life. But before today, we've not had specific guidance on training for staff working in or around the justice sector.”
Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, said: “The trauma-informed framework has been directly developed following discussions at the Scottish Government's Victims' Taskforce. Driven by the lived experience of people who have been affected by crime, the framework has been rightly recognised as a key priority to improve victims' experiences of the criminal justice system.
“Many victims tell us that giving evidence and experience of the criminal justice system can be as traumatising as the crime itself. The implementation of a trauma-informed framework throughout the justice system can make a huge difference for many when giving evidence in court.
“We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Scottish Government and others to ensure victims, witnesses and their families are treated with respect and compassion at every stage of the justice system.”
Aims and outcomes of a trauma informed justice system for witnesses:
- recognises impact: understanding that witnesses and members of the workforce have been exposed to trauma and that they can be impacted by this in different ways
- minimises harm: the potential for risk of re-traumatisation is understood, identified and avoided where possible
- supports recovery where possible: witnesses experience relationships [with justice agencies] that support their recovery, ability to give best evidence and engagement
- enables effective participation: practices are adapted to the impact of trauma so that witnesses can participate fully and give the best evidence they can
- supports workforce resilience: recognising the impact of working with traumatic material and witnesses affected by trauma and that workers are supported, reducing the impact of vicarious trauma
- trauma-informed leadership and systems: that justice leadership and management of organisations and systems support the first five aims