Today, Kez raised the tragic case of Shaun Woodburn with ministers in the Scottish Parliament. Shaun was killed on New Year’s Day 2017, and his family visited the parliament to discuss their campaign to improve the transparency of court proceedings.
Shaun’s killer received a sentence of just four years. The family, who have shared their story with the Daily Record today, believe that the sentence should have been longer. They also accept that that is why an independent judge determines these matters – not the media, not victims’ families and not even politicians – but what they cannot understand is why no one will explain why that decision was made, what the process was, what was considered and what was not considered.
When Kez raised this with Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Carloway, he drew her attention to section 6 of the 2014 Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act, which gives victims the right to request the final decision of a court in a trial and any reasons for it. Given that right, which was delivered by the SNP Government, Kez asked why has the sentencing report not been shared with the family – and what steps the Government will take to improve the transparency of court proceedings.
In response to Kez, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson told parliament:
“The First Minister and I met Shaun Woodburn’s family on 10 January. We were both struck by the dignity with which they have conducted themselves in such difficult circumstances. I understand that the family are with us in the chamber today and I take the opportunity to offer again my condolences for their tragic loss.
“This Government has already taken a number of steps to enhance the rights of victims. The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 improved the support and information made available to victims. That includes providing victims and bereaved relatives with new rights to access information and reasons for decisions made about their case. It also created a duty on justice organisations to set clear standards of service, so that victims know what to expect and whom to contact if the service that they receive does not meet their expectations. In addition, we published the “Victims’ Code for Scotland”, which clearly and simply sets out the rights of victims in one place.
“It is important that we continue to listen to the experience of victims and their families and consider further improvements that can be made. Indeed, we are currently working with our justice partners and victims organisations to explore a single-point-of-contact model for victim support. That will help to ensure that those who experience serious crimes receive a consistent and individually tailored level of support for as long as they feel is necessary.”
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