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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-18390: Shona Robison (Dundee City East)

Scottish National Party

Date lodged: 24 August 2018

To ask the Scottish Government what measures are being taken to tackle sexual offences, particularly those involving children.

Answered by: Humza Yousaf 18 September 2018

The independent Scottish Sentencing Council is progressing work to research sentencing of those convicted of sexual offences. This work will help inform future decisions about whether they would wish to consider preparing a sentencing guideline in this area.

My predecessor also introduced the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill into the Scottish Parliament in June. If passed, it will create a new rule that children who are under 18 and are due to give evidence in the most serious criminal cases should have their evidence pre-recorded in advance of trial. This is an important step towards achieving the Scottish Government’s vision that, where possible, child witnesses should not have to give evidence during a criminal trial.

Where such offending does take place, we are also exploring the application of the Barnahus concept for immediate trauma-informed support for child victims of serious and traumatic crimes within the context of Scotland’s healthcare and criminal justice system. We have been clear that the justice system as a whole, and where appropriate other public services including in health and in child protection must continue to improve how it looks after victims and witnesses and we are working in partnership with justice agencies to make that happen.

The Scottish Government provides funding to a range of organisations who undertake work to help prevent and protect children from child sexual exploitation including to NSPPC Scotland and Barnado’s.

Last November, my predecessor Michael Matheson MSP announced that former Crown Office Chief Executive Catherine Dyer would head up an Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending involving Children and Young People. This Group brings professional and academic expertise, from across justice, education, health and the third sector, together with young people to identify fresh actions to better prevent sexual crime involving children and young people, both as victims and perpetrators, in order to mitigate the harm it causes. The Group will report back with findings and recommendations to Scottish Ministers by the end of next March.

The Scottish Government is committed to taking action to help prevent sexual offences being committed against children. We are also committed to ensuring where such offending does take place, the criminal justice system and other agencies can respond appropriately and sensitively in dealing with the trauma caused by such cases.