CRIMINALS will soon be made to pay for victims’ costs such as funerals for people who have been murdered or the protection of witnesses.
A new Scottish Government fund will allow victims or their families to share in almost £1 million a year of cash seized from criminals.
It is designed to pay for costs incurred by victims of crime, such as funeral costs or moving costs to help victims get away from abusers or their associates.
The government’s Victim Surcharge Fund, established under the Victims and Witnesses Act, will be modelled on the existing Victim Support Scotland victims’ fund.
The family of murder victim Jim Tierney, 27, who was killed in Pumpherston in 2011, has received funeral costs from the existing victims’ fund.
Mr Tierney’s mother, Christine, 63, said: “We did not know that such a thing as this fund existed and it was a huge relief to discover that financial help was there.”
Siobhan Melrose, 27, from West Lothian, needed help to move away from an abusive ex-partner and his friends who were spying on her.
“I knew I was not safe staying where I was and that I was being followed on a regular basis,” she said.
“My ex-partner was sent to prison for his assault and abuse of a number of women, including me, but it seemed that his friends were holding me accountable. For my own safety and that of my family, I had to get away.”
From today, the Act will also introduce new powers to enable victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse, human trafficking and stalking to choose the gender of their police interviewer.
Victims will also be permitted to make representations to the authorities when prisoners are being considered for release.
The Act lowers the age at which victims can make a statement in their own right from 14 to 12.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the new measures were a “major milestone” in improving the rights of, and support for, victims in our justice system.
David McKenna, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said it was a major advance in supporting victims of crime in Scotland.
He added: “The new Victim Surcharge Fund will ensure that when people are most in need, when they have nowhere else to turn, that Victim Support Scotland will, through the fund, be able to provide the services they require.”