In April 2019, the Law Society of Scotland’s Criminal Law Committee published a report on the vulnerable accused person in April 2019. This followed a roundtable event where representatives from the criminal justice, Scottish Government and third sector organisations attended supported by the representatives from Law Society of England and Wales and the Law Society of Ireland.
Our Report indicates that there needs to be greater consistency in approach to supporting the vulnerable accused person within the criminal justice system. We identify five practical steps to ensure that the human rights of vulnerable people accused of criminal offences are respected and taken into account. These included clearer definitions of vulnerability, the creation of a central knowledge hub and a review of how new technology can improve information sharing. The recommendations in full are:
1. Development of a framework of understanding to be shared across the Scottish criminal justice system following a multi-agency review of definitions and interpretations of vulnerability
2. A review of existing legislation, measures and practices, including ongoing consultations, in relation to vulnerable persons leading to the development of a central portal of knowledge and information
3. A review of groups for whom there is limited support and representation within the Scottish criminal justice system
4. A review of the prevalence of individuals with vulnerabilities in the Scottish criminal justice system and the types of vulnerabilities most commonly encountered
5. A review of how the use of existing and innovative technology can better support information sharing and data protection
On 29 June 2019, we presented at the CCBE Criminal law Committee meeting in Brussels to share the findings from our Report. The issue of the vulnerable accused person is common to all countries irrespective of the individual systems of criminal law and procedure, adversarial or inquisitorial.
We are interested in others sharing their practical experience of inconsistencies within their criminal justice system and how they identify or define the vulnerable accused. It is important as greater protections are being developed for vulnerable witnesses and are welcomed, there must not be any loss of how vulnerable people accused of criminal offences themselves experience the criminal justice system.
Everyone accused of a crime is entitled to respect for their human rights but if vulnerabilities are not identified early on there is a risk people will not be treated consistently and fairly and can cause delay in the justice system. Please send any views or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.