By Lucy Ashton
Scottish Liberal Democrats have committed to fully incorporating a new model for child victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system.
The Nordic Barnahus model involves new child-friendly centres based away from the court around the country.
These allow children and young people to be sensitively interviewed following an incident, and support children and young people to provide the best quality evidence possible. This helps reduce the need to repeatedly re-live the experience and further compound trauma.
Every year 12,600 children in Scotland require special support to give evidence in court. or appear in front of the Children’s Panel.
Liam McArthur MSP, who visited Norway to see how this approach has been implemented.
Liam McArthur MSP, who personally visited Norway to see first hand how this approach has been implemented, said: Scotland’s justice system is in some ways still grounded in Victorian ideas of crime and punishment, and victims’ best interests often get lost in the process. Children and young people who come into contact with it suffer as a result.
“There can be no justice in a system where victims report experiences worse than the crime itself. There is a desperate need for a child-centred, evidence-based overhaul.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed to this, and fully incorporating the Barnahus model will be a pivotal part of that process. This needs to be nationwide, so that no child or young person has to suffer through old systems.
“The Scottish Government is yet to make any such commitment. Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrats are clear that there should be no further delay.
“Victims and witnesses have been sidelined for far too long. It’s time to put their needs front and centre of how we think about justice.”
Meanwhile, in response to publication of the SNP’s detailed referendum legislation the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie said: “Holy moly, they’ve had people working on the referendum instead of dealing with the pandemic.
“Dozens of civil servants could have been planning to get cancer services running full speed but they’ve been ordered to do this instead.
“Or they could have been working on getting funds to business, better mental health services or support for schools.
“We are still in a pandemic. Thousands have lost their lives, thousands more have lost their job.
“Reasonable people will think that this is the wrong moment to be pushing a referendum.
“We should put recovery first and bin this bill.”
Leader Willie Rennie kept up the attack when he told the UK Liberal Democrat spring conference that independence would be like Brexit on a rocket and he warned that the SNP want an independence vote by Christmas.
Mr Rennie said: “On education, mental health, jobs and climate – the priority of the Liberal Democrats for the next five years is to Put Recovery First.
“The priority for the SNP for the next five years is to put another independence referendum first.
“Reasonable people would agree, no matter what they think about independence, that this is not the moment for another referendum.
“But they see in the news that the SNP want a vote by this Christmas. In the middle of a pandemic, when thousands have lost their lives, thousands more have lost their job and our normal freedoms have been taken from us.
Willie Rennie – Independence would be like Brexit on a rocket to Mars.
“Now is not the moment for that long, divisive, argumentative, exhausting, all-consuming event.
“An event that would suffocate our country, snuff out debate on other important matters and split our country asunder.
“We don’t have to guess what it would be like. We’ve had an independence campaign before. Families were split, friendships were broken, business was lost.
“And we had Brexit. The scars are deep. Independence would be Brexit Mark 2. Independence would be like Brexit on a rocket to Mars. It would take a lot of energy, the journey is very long and there is no way back.
“That is why I want people in Scotland to put aside our differences on independence and focus on the recovery.”