Evidence-taking reforms making progress

Jun 25, 2019

Scotland has made “considerable progress” in improving the outlook for child and vulnerable witnesses giving evidence in Scotland’s courts, leading judge Lord Matthews told a conference of legal practitioners from around the world in Nottingham last week.

Lord Matthews was a keynote speaker at the Third International Advocacy Conference, held at Nottingham Trent University and organised by Nottingham Law School and the Advocate’s Gateway.  Delegates came together to discuss how best to ensure that vulnerable witnesses and vulnerable accused can participate fully and fairly in both criminal and civil cases.

Lord Matthews’s speech, entitled “Vulnerable Witnesses in Scotland – A Revolution in the Making?” described the advances made in the past few years, and set out some of the ideas for the future. He told the audience of legal and justice professionals that, since the publication of the Evidence and Procedure Review reports in 2015-17, “We have developed some bold, practical Scottish solutions, particularly in the way we provide for children and vulnerable witnesses to give their evidence in criminal trials.”

These advances centred on progress in the use of Evidence by Commissioner hearings, improved Joint Investigative Interviews and the provisions enacted in the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) Scotland Act signed into law earlier this month. Lord Matthews also spoke of the importance of the provision of purpose-built and carefully-designed Vulnerable Witness Centres across Scotland, the first of which is nearing completion in Glasgow.

Lord Matthews paid tribute to the role of Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, and the SCTS in leading the research on these developments and the key contributions made by the Judiciary, Crown Office, Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, Third Sector organisations and legal practitioners in bringing about this progress. He told the conference: “There is now a coalition of judiciary, practitioners, voluntary organisations and politicians that has combined to bring about substantial change – change which should make the experience of those encountering the criminal justice system so much better, and more suitable for the real administration of justice.”

Lord Matthews’s speech was well received by delegates many of whom expressed a wish to come to Scotland to see how the reforms are being implemented. The speech can be read here.


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