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Vulnerable victims and witnesses (special measures)

What is a ‘vulnerable’ witness?

The court automatically treats some victims and witnesses as vulnerable. Others may be treated as such after consideration. If someone is vulnerable they can use special measures when they give evidence in a trial.

Examples of people who are/may be entitled to special measures are:

  • those who may suffer from fear or distress due to giving evidence
  • those with a mental disorder or learning difficulties
  • those under 18 years of age
  • victims in cases of domestic abuse, sexual crime, stalking & human trafficking
  • those who could suffer harm because of giving evidence

Giving you extra support

We know that giving evidence can be stressful. If you – or a person you're caring for or supporting – are vulnerable, we want to help you at every stage of your case.

Where you have concerns about what you will experience in court, our Victim Information and Advice (VIA) service may be able to help you.

Special measures to help you give evidence

There are a number of ways we can help you when you are giving your evidence. Some of them happen before the trial and some of them happen during the trial.

Ways you could be supported to give evidence

Supporters

A supporter is someone you may wish to be with you when you are giving your evidence. If the judge allows you to have a supporter you could bring a relative, friend, a support worker or someone else.

Screens

The judge may allow a screen to be put up in the courtroom so that you do not have to see the accused. The accused will still be able to see you on a tv screen when you are giving evidence.

Live TV link

You may be able to give live evidence from a) another room in the court building away from the courtroom or b) from a completely separate location away from the court building. When you are giving evidence you will be connected to the courtroom using a live TV link.

Evidence by prior Statement

The judge may allow the statement that you gave to the police to form part of your evidence. The statement will be read (if it is a written statement) or played (if it is a pre-recorded statement) in court at the trial. This statement cannot form all of your evidence so you will still have to give some evidence at the trial or at an Evidence by Commissioner hearing (see below for more information).

Evidence by Commissioner

The judge may allow you to give evidence away from the courtroom before the trial takes place. Your evidence will be filmed and the recording will be played in court at the trial.

Closed courts

You can request that the courtroom is closed so that members of the public are not allowed in when you are giving your evidence. The judge will consider this request and make a decision.

Get in touch

If you have been contacted by our Victim Information and Advice (VIA) service you can get in touch with them to discuss these measures.

Contact us if you feel you need special measures. Some may not be available in your case, but we will always look for a way of supporting you to give your best evidence. Contact our Enquiry Point team on the details below and they will direct your call to our VIA service.

Further support

Victim Support Scotland can help you talk through the issues around giving evidence and special measures.

The Scottish Government's guide Being a Witness at Court also has further information.

You may want other help that falls outside of special measures. See the links below for information on language interpreters and disabled access at court.