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Campaign launched to support more victims of crime in Highlands

By Tom Ramage

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A new campaign, aiming to raise awareness of victims’ rights and peoples’ right to access support and information if they are affected by crime, is under way.

As part of Victims Awareness Week, Victim Support Scotland is working with Police Scotland and other partner organisations to inform people about the free information and support it provides, helping victims and witnesses of crime to navigate the criminal justice system and cope with the trauma and emotional strain of crime.

The latest available data shows that 1214 people in the Highlands and Islands have been referred to the charity in the past year. However, the campaign is part of a coordinated strategy by Victim Support Scotland and Police Scotland to reverse this trend.

Victim Support Scotland October 2023 – © Julie Broadfoot
Victim Support Scotland October 2023 – © Julie Broadfoot

Following the change in data protection legislation in May 2018, Police Scotland can no longer automatically refer victims and witnesses to receive the support they are entitled to. The unintended consequence of this legislation has resulted in over 90% fewer people being automatically offered information and support.

According to the charity, there is a significant gap between the number of crimes recorded, and the number of people receiving support from the charity.

Everyone in Scotland has a legal right to support if they are a victim or witness of crime, as do their family members. To help spread this message and ensure no one who is affected by crime in Scotland falls through the cracks, Victim Support Scotland is raising public awareness of victims’ rights and the services they are entitled to.

Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said: “When someone is affected by crime, it can have a massive impact on their life, affecting them emotionally, mentally, physically, financially and practically. It can be very traumatic, so having the right information at the right time is critical.

“In Scotland, anyone affected by crime has a right to support and information, regardless of whether the crime was reported to the police or not. While not everyone affected by crime will want to exercise these rights, we are worried about the gap between the number of crimes recorded and the number of people seeking support.

Victim Support Scotland October 2023 – © Julie Broadfoot
Victim Support Scotland October 2023 – © Julie Broadfoot

“By working closely with Police Scotland, victim support organisations and directly with victims, we hope to raise more awareness of victims’ rights and reach more people in the year ahead. We want everyone to know that if they or someone they know is affected by crime, Victim Support Scotland can help.”

Faroque Hussain, Chief Superintendent at Police Scotland, said: “We understand how distressing it is when someone is a victim of crime, and we are here to support you. We will provide you with a victim care card which will include the name of the officer dealing with your case and information about your rights including access to support services. If you want us to refer you directly then we can do that.

“Police Scotland is committed to supporting victims and survivors and will ensure you are kept updated on the progress of your case. We will also explain how we will deal with your case and what we may ask you to do to help us.

“Depending on the circumstances of the crime we will consider your needs and try to ensure those needs are met, and if necessary, work with our relevant partner agencies. We would always encourage anyone who has been the victim of crime or who is a witness to crime, to seek the support of Victim Support Scotland.”

VSS supports anyone affected by a crime, no matter what it is or when it happened. The service is free and confidential and designed to assist people who have been directly or indirectly affected by crime, helping them to see life beyond what they have experienced.

Victim Support Scotland supports people affected by crime throughout Highlands and Islands, as well as in-court support to vulnerable witnesses at Inverness Justice Centre and regional Sheriff Courts.

Victims Awareness Week runs until Sunday 25 and coincides with European Day for Victims on Thursday.

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