MSPs are being urged to “throw their weight” behind proposals to overhaul Scotland’s justice system.
Under legislation brought forward by the Scottish Conservatives, victims of crime would be given the opportunity to make a statement to court to speak about how a crime has affected them.
It would also seek to enable authorities to prevent a killer’s release if they refuse to reveal where they have buried their victims’ body, as well as giving victims notice of decisions about their case.
Other measures under the party’s ‘Victims Law’ include enshrining the right of victims to be notified of a decision not to prosecute their case, ending the not proven verdict, and to guarantee that the voices of victims are heard during parole and temporary release hearings.
Mandatory timescales would also be brought in for completing Fatal Accident Inquiries.
A consultation on the Bill was carried out ahead of the final proposal being brought before Parliament by Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene in the New Year.
More than 80% of 146 full submissions received during the consultation period have backed the measures set out in the Bill.
The vast majority (71%) were fully supportive of the Bill, with a further 11% partially supportive of plans to redress an imbalance in the justice system.
Of those who responded, 85% also back the creation of ‘Suzanne’s Law’ – named after a murder victim – to prevent a killer being released unless they disclose the location of their victim’s body.
Greene, the Scottish Conservatives’ justice spokesman, claimed that the SNP’s “soft-touch” justice system” has seen the interests of criminals trump those of victims.
“I’m delighted, but not surprised, by the overwhelming support for my Victims Law,” said Greene.
“These measures are a fair and common-sense response to a justice system that currently fails to take adequate account of the interests of crime victims.
“For too long under the SNP’s soft-touch justice system, the interests of criminals have trumped those of victims.
“That’s wrong and this proposal will redress that unfair balance to ensure that victims are put at the heart of the system, where they belong.
“I would urge MSPs from all parties to throw their weight behind it when I bring the final proposal before the Scottish Parliament in the New Year.”
Justice secretary Keith Brown explained that several measures outlined under the legislation are already being brought forward.
“As with any Bill, once laid in Parliament, we will consider the details of any legislative proposals carefully,” he said.
“However, we are already taking forward measures in areas covered by the proposed Bill, including removal of the not proven verdict and a pilot scheme to explore expansion of victim statements.”