Reforms to how evidence is taken

Scotland has made considerable progress in improving the outlook for child and vulnerable witnesses giving evidence in our courts, leading judge Lord Matthews told a conference of legal practitioners from around the world in Nottingham last week.

Lord Matthews was a keynote speaker at the third International Advocacy Conference, held at Nottingham Trent University and organised by Nottingham Law School and the Advocate's Gateway. Delegates came together to discuss how best to ensure that vulnerable witnesses and vulnerable accused can participate fully and fairly in both criminal and civil cases.

Lord Matthews' speech entitled "Vulnerable Witnesses in Scotland - A Revolution in the Making?" described the advances made in the past few years, and set out ideas for the future. He told the audience of legal and justice professionals that since the publication of Evidence and Procedure Review reports in 2015-17: "We have developed some bold, practical Scottish solutions, particularly in the way we provide for children and vulnerable witnesses to give their evidence in criminal trials".

These advances centred on progress in the use of Evidence by Commisioner hearings, improved Joint Investigative Interviews and the provisions enacted in the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) Scotland Act. Lord Matthews also spoke of the importance of the provision of purpose-built and carefully designed vulnerable witness centres across Scotland, the first of which is nearing completion in Glasgow.

He paid tribute to the role of Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service in leading the research on these developments and the key contributions made throughout the justice sector. He told the conference: "There is now a coalition of judiciary, practitioners, voluntary organisations, and politicians that have combined to bring about substantial change - change which should make the experience of those encountering the criminal justice system so much better, and more suitable for the real administration of justice."

Following the well-received speech, many delegates are interested in visiting Scotland to see first-hand how the reforms are being implemented.

Read the full speech.