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Victim Notification Scheme

The Victim Notification Scheme provides victims of crime with information about the release of offenders currently detained in prison.

Overview

The Victim Notification Scheme (VNS) offers victims information about the release of an offender. This is available where the offender is:

  • sentenced to a period of imprisonment, or
  • made subject of a Compulsion and Restriction Order

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:

(a) spouse
(b) cohabitee
(c) son or daughter or any person that the victim had parental rights or responsibilities for
(d) father or mother or any person who had parental rights or responsibilities for the victim
(e) brother or sister
(f) grandparent
(g) grandchild
(h) uncle or aunt
(i) nephew or niece

and 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.

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. Contact the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to obtain this information.

You do not have to complete registration forms. However, the SPS may contact us 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'.

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'.

What information will I receive under part 1 of the scheme?

If you register under Part 1 of the VNS, you will receive information from the Scottish Prison Service when the offender:

  • is going to be released, giving the date
  • dies before being released, giving the date of death
  • has been transferred outside of Scotland
  • is eligible for temporary release
  • escapes or absconds from prison or hospital
  • returns to prison for a reason connected to the victim's case
  • leaves hospital and has their detention suspended without being supervised

What information will not be given?

The scheme does not tell victims about offenders being moved for mental health treatment. However, the Scottish Government will notify victims if offenders are kept in hospital.

The scheme will not give out details of an offender's location after release.

What representations can I make under part 2 of the scheme?

Victims can be involved in decisions that are made about the offender's remaining sentence. You can do this by signing up to Part 2 of the VNS. The statements that you submit are called representations.

You can make representations to:

  • the Scottish Prison Service when the offender is being considered for temporary release or release on Home Detention Curfew - usually for prisoners serving less than 4 years
  • the Parole Board when the offender is being considered for release on parole licence - usually for prisoners serving more than 4 years

You will usually need to make your representations in writing. However, in cases where the offender is in prison and is serving a sentence of life imprisonment, you can make your representations either in writing or choose to speak in person to the Parole Board.

What you say may influence the terms of the offender's temporary release, Home Detention Curfew or release on licence.

Full details of the information you are entitled to can be found here.

How do I register for VNS?

To register with this scheme, victims must complete a registration form.

If eligible, you can get one from the *[VIA]:Victim Information and Advice Service at COPFS:

Send your completed form to the Scottish Prison Service:

Victim Notification Scheme
Calton House
5 Redheughs Rigg
Edinburgh
EH12 9HW

Moving house

Inform the Prison Service as soon as possible of your new address using the details above.

Leaving the scheme

You can stop receiving information at any time by completing the withdrawal form. Get one from the Scottish Prison Service at the above address and send it back to them.

Will the offender know I have joined the scheme?

Part 1 – information only (see above)

No. Any information you receive will be given without the offender being told.

Part 2 – representations

Offenders and their solicitors are entitled to see any representations you may submit, which will show your name. For this reason you should not include any other details, such as your contact information.

Offenders sentenced to Compulsion and Restriction Orders

Some offenders who would normally go to prison may require treatment for a mental health condition. When this happens, the court places the offender on a Compulsion and Restriction Order. If you are the victim in one of these cases, you have the right to join the Compulsion and Restriction Order Victim Notification Scheme (CORO VNS). If you do, you will receive information and can make representations about the offender’s release from hospital.

What information will I receive?

Part 1

Under part 1 of the CORO VNS, you have the right to receive the following information:

  • that the offender’s Compulsion Order has been revoked
  • that the offender’s Restriction Order has been revoked
  • where the Compulsion Order or the Restriction Order has been revoked, that the decision to revoke it:
    • (i) is under appeal, or
    • (ii) cannot competently be appealed against and is therefore final; if the decision to revoke a Compulsion Order or a Restriction Order is appealed against, you will also be told about the decision of the Court;
  • the date of the offender’s death
  • that the measures specified in the Compulsion Order have been changed
  • that the offender has been transferred to a place outwith Scotland
  • that the Mental Health Tribunal has made an order discharging the offender with conditions
  • the terms of any conditions, relevant to the victim, that the Tribunal imposes on the offender on conditional discharge
  • that the Scottish Ministers have recalled the offender to hospital

If a Compulsion Order keeps the offender in hospital, you can also be told:

  • that the offender has absconded from hospital
  • that the offender has returned to hospital after absconding
  • that a certificate has been granted, for the first time, under the Mental Health Act, letting the offender out without supervision
  • That the certificate mentioned above has been removed

Part 2

Joining part 2 of the CORO VNS gives you the opportunity to make representations before a decision:

  • by the medical officer about granting, for the first time, a certificate which lets the offender out without supervision
  • by the Tribunal to:
    • make no order (maintaining the status quo)
    • revoke the Compulsion Order
    • revoke the Restriction Order
    • vary the measures given in the Compulsion Order, or
    • grant conditional discharge imposing certain conditions
  • by the Scottish Ministers imposing, altering or removing a condition that might relevant to the victim

How do I register for CORO VNS?

To register with this scheme, victims are required to complete a registration form.

If eligible, you can get this from the *[VIA]:Victim Information and Advice Service at COPFS:

Send your completed form to the Scottish Government:

  • Telephone – 0131 244 0160
  • Email – vns@gov.scot
  • Address –

The Scottish Government
Saint Andrew’s House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

For further information, please click on the links below:

Moving house

Inform the Scottish Government as soon as possible of your new address using the details above.

Leaving the scheme

You can stop receiving information at any time by completing the withdrawal form. Get one from the Scottish Government at the above address and send it back to them.

Will the offender know I have joined the scheme?

Part 1 – information only (see above)

No. Any information you receive will be given without the offender being told.

Part 2 – representations

Offenders and their solicitors are entitled to see any representations you may submit, which will show your name. For this reason you should not include any other details, such as your contact information.

Support and advice

For further information about the full VNS, please see Scottish Government guidance document on the Victim Notification Scheme.

You may want help understanding your rights as a victim. You might want advice as you think about joining the Victim Notification Scheme. You can get in touch with Victim Support Scotland for support.

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