COPFS corporate

Emergency release of short-term prisoners - using the Victim Notification Scheme

Information about signing up for the Victim Notification Scheme (VNS) which offers victims information about the release of an offender.

The Victim Notification Scheme (VNS) offers victims information about the release of an offender.

If you are one of the following, you are eligible to receive information under the VNS:

  • all victims, aged 12 years and over
  • the parent, guardian or carer of a child victim, aged under 12 years
  • the carer of an incapacitated victim
  • the four highest listed nearest relatives of a deceased person (see below)

The eligible nearest relatives listed in order of highest first are: 

  1. spouse
  2. cohabitee
  3. son or daughter or any person that the victim had parental rights or responsibilities for
  4. father or mother or any person who had parental rights or responsibilities for the victim
  5. brother or sister
  6. grandparent
  7. grandchild
  8. uncle or aunt
  9. nephew or niece

Additionally, the elder of any two persons described in items (a) to (i) above is to be taken as the higher listed person, regardless of sex.

There are two different schemes in relation to individuals who have been sentenced to periods of imprisonment.

Offenders sentenced to less than 18 months

If you are the victim of an offender who was sentenced to less than 18 months in prison, you have the right to information about the offender’s date of release.

You do not have to complete registration forms; you just have to contact the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to obtain this information.

However, the SPS may contact COPFS or the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service to confirm that you were the named victim of the offending behaviour.

Receiving information about offenders sentenced to less than 18 months in prison is often referred to as the 'short-term notification scheme'.

The VNS team at Scottish Prison Service can be contacted at 0131 330 3664.

Offenders sentenced to more than 18 months

If you are the victim of an offender who was sentenced to 18 months or more in prison, you have the right to register with the VNS and:

  • receive information about the release of the offender; this is part 1 of the scheme.
  • make written representations about the release of the offender, including temporary release; this is part 2 of the scheme.

Victims can choose to opt in and receive information under either or both parts.

Receiving information for offenders sentenced to 18 months or more in prison is often referred to as the 'full victim notification scheme'.

To register for the 'full victim notification scheme', you require to complete and submit a registration form. You may have been sent a registration form by COPFS’ Victim Information and Advice Service (VIA) at the conclusion of the case when the accused was sentenced to imprisonment.

If you no longer have this form or do not believe you received one you should contact Via by:

Further information

Further information about both schemes can be found in the Scottish Government guidance document on the Victim Notification Scheme.