Briefing paper on legal issues and witness protection in criminal cases
Research output: Other contribution
In Scotland issues about witness protection have assumed greater importance in recent years and this has led to some improvements in the position of children and some other vulnerable witnesses, which are considered later in this paper. In addition, Crown Office and the Scottish Court Service issued a Joint Statement on Crown Witnesses in 1998, committing both services to “providing proper and efficient service and care to witnesses who attend court”. (The implementation of this commitment is currently being evaluated.) A Consultative Document Towards a Just Conclusion: Vulnerable and Intimidated Witnesses in Scottish Criminal and Civil Cases was produced by The Scottish Office in 1998. Surprisingly the potential impact of the incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights on the position of witnesses, particularly in criminal cases, was not considered in the Consultative Document. Groups working with victims of crime have expressed concern about the current situation regarding witness protection and the way in which witnesses are treated generally within the Scottish criminal justice system (Law Society of Scotland;1998). The aim of this paper is to contribute to the debate about possible changes by: · providing a clear understanding of current legal provisions in domestic, European and International Law concerning witness protection · analysing the key legal issues which arise in the criminal process regarding witness protection · comparing and contrasting the protection of witnesses under domestic, European and International Law · suggesting ways in which witnesses might be offered better protection through procedural changes while paying due attention to the rights of the accused. The paper is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the position in other jurisdictions, given its short length and particular focus on the Scottish position. In addition, this area of law is still developing, at international, European and domestic level.