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SCTS publishes Evidence and Procedure Review - Next Steps 29/02/2016 The SCTS has published its “Evidence and Procedure Review – Next Steps” report, recommending a new approach to ensure children and vulnerable witnesses are protected from further trauma while giving evidence

SCTS publishes Evidence and Procedure Review - Next Steps

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) has published its “Evidence and Procedure Review – Next Steps” report, recommending both a new approach to ensure children and vulnerable witnesses are protected from further trauma while giving evidence and radical digital transformation of the summary criminal justice system .

“For too long it has been easy to describe our criminal courts as products of the Victorian age,” said Eric McQueen, Chief Executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. “Our task now is to bring them right into the 21st Century, not by tinkering at the edges, but by radical digital reform to improve the quality of justice for all concerned. This Report recommends that we use technology to allow children and vulnerable witnesses to give their evidence, and have it examined, out with the pressures of the court environment and to modernise the way we do business in summary criminal cases through a digital case management system.”

The report recommends that, initially for solemn cases, the evidence of children or vulnerable witnesses should be captured and presented at trial in pre-recorded form with any subsequent cross-examination of that witness also being recorded in advance of trial. This approach would be supported by appropriate case management, new approaches to the questioning of children and vulnerable witnesses and the possible use of intermediaries.

With regard to summary criminal procedures, the report recommends a significant re-design, in a way that takes full advantage of new technologies. In particular it:

  • calls for immediate work to be undertaken to develop detailed requirements for a Digital Evidence Vault or other means of storing and managing evidence and information relevant to criminal cases.
  • calls for the development of proposals to reform criminal procedures to allow for a more streamlined, digitally-enabled justice process, using digitised evidence as far as possible, controlled within a case management system, with the objective to minimise the need for face-to-face hearings in court.

The report is available here.

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