THE grieving father of Shaun Woodburn has spoken out on the creation of the Scottish Government’s new victims’ taskforce, saying it will only work if relatives are directly involved in the process.
Kevin Woodburn commented after Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf announced yesterday the launch of a victims’ taskforce aimed at improving the criminal justice system from a victims’ point of view.
Speaking to the Daily Record, Mr Woodburn said that, while he was happy with the taskforce’s creation, he believes there needs to be thorough communication throughout between the legal representatives and those directly affected by the crimes in question.
He said: “I’m pleased to hear Humza will establish a task force but this cannot be made up of only people from the legal establishment. That totally defeats the purpose.
“They need people who have real experience of the legal system from a victims’ perspective.”
Kevin’s son Shaun, a former footballer for Bonnyrigg Rose, was tragically killed after being attacked outside a Leith pub on Hogmanay 2016.
Mr Woodburn added: “Changes need to be made urgently to the way families are treated and there is nobody better placed to discuss those changes than people going through it.
“It is a positive step forward and Humza appears to be listening. I will look forward to discussing the task force and other issues when we meet.”
Humza Yousaf announced the new system during the SNP conference in Glasgow on Monday.
The Scottish Government added that, rather than involve families directly, the taskforce would take evidence from victims and their relatives.
Yousaf commented: “The impact of crime can be long-lasting and traumatic.
“Significant progress has been made in recent years to enhance victims’ rights and provide funding for appropriate support, while criminal justice agencies have set robust standards of service for victims and witnesses.
“However, we must go further to ensure the justice system does not exacerbate trauma and distress.
“Crime in Scotland has fallen by around a third over the last decade with fewer people becoming victims.
“However, some crime types such as sexual offences show increases and we must redouble our efforts to ensure where any victim of crime comes forward they are provided with a consistently high standard of service.
“Since my appointment I have made clear my determination to develop a truly victim-centred approach which will demand coordinated action by justice system partners and victim support organisations.
“This task force will accelerate progress by keeping up momentum and ensuring accountability, focusing on the improvements that matter most to victims and working together to break down barriers to change.”
During an exchange on Twitter, Mr Woodburn told the justice secretary that he was pleased with the announcement. Yousaf sent his thanks and offered to meet with Mr Woodburn to further discuss how the taskforce will operate.
Shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “The Scottish Conservatives have campaigned for Michelle’s Law, which would strengthen victims’ rights.
“It is good to see the pressure we’ve put on the SNP to address 11 years of failing victims seems to be paying off.
“But Nicola Sturgeon was unwilling to introduce legislation in the SNP’s weak programme for government.
“This task force must address how the SNP’s soft-touch approach to justice lets down victims of crime and their families.
“It is a start but the only legislation proposed is all about soft touch offender ‘rights’.
“Warm words will never replace strong action.”
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