Victims' rights scheme may include escapees

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By Michael MacLeod

VICTIMS of mentally ill criminals could be given the right to know if their attacker escapes from hospital.

Scottish ministers are considering extending the victim notification scheme to cover patients in secure psychiatric units.

Currently only victims in cases where the perpetrator is medically assessed to be sane are given information on when their attacker has escaped or absconded.

Other conditions mean victims are not eligible to know further details unless they are jailed for 18 months or more.

A victims’ rights group said the scheme needs to go further and be less bureaucratic.

Open

Kate Caskie of Victim Support Scotland said: “This is a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done to open up the scheme.

“Currently it doesn’t apply if the crime was committed by a youth or if the offender was sentenced to a community supervision order.

“The scheme is also far too bureaucratic and only articulate victims who can find their way through all the forms are able to get information.

“Every victim should be automatically informed about an offender’s movements.”

The scheme was set up to provide peace of mind for victims so they don’t cross paths with their attacker without warning.

Unpredictable

Including people with mental health problems in the scheme is long overdue in the view of Scottish Lib Dem justice spokesperson Robert Brown.

He said: “Prisoners with mental health difficulties can sometimes cause more of a risk because of the unpredictability of their reactions to situations.

“For victims it is not the category of the perpetrator but the nature of their crime and the circumstance of their release.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson confirmed details of the proposed scheme extension would be announced later this year.

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