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Victims' rights - by country

How and where can I report a crime?

How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?

How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?

What are my rights as a witness?

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?

Can I receive legal aid?

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?

Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

More information

How and where can I report a crime?

If you are a victim of a crime in the Scotland you can report it to the police.

Depending on where the crime was committed you can report it by calling or going in person to the nearest police station. In urgent cases you can dial the emergency number 999 or 112.

If you are an asylum seeker or a refugee, you can also contact one of the Scottish Refugee Council, which will help you to find the nearest police station and can arrange an interpreter free of charge if you need one.

If you do not feel comfortable to report the crime yourself you can ask another person to report it for you or file an anonymous report to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or filling in their online form.

Crimes are usually reported in English. If you do not speak English, the police will try to organise an interpreter, free of charge.

Tell the police all relevant details about the crime, the person you think committed the crime (if known), and relevant personal details (e.g. your name, address, and other contact details). The police will record this on a special form.

Sometimes there is a limited time period during which proceedings for an offence may be started against a person.

More detailed online information about how to report a crime to the police in Scotland is available here.

How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?

The police will give you a crime number, which is the reference number of your case. You may need to quote this number if you wish to check on the progress of your case. You can do this by going to the police station or calling by phone.

How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?

Depending on your needs you will be provided free of charge with an interpreter, medical examination, and other services. However, this does not include legal advice and/or representation as the victim is not a party to the proceedings. If you want to know how your case is progressing, you can contact the police (you will be told who to contact once you have reported the crime, and you will be given a crime number that you should quote to help the police find the information more easily). You will not be allowed to see any documents or data concerning the proceedings. Any further involvement in the investigation is at the request of the police (e.g. responding to additional questions or participation in an identity parade). You are not obliged to take any further part if you do not wish to do so (though you may be obliged to participate in any court proceedings that might follow).

What are my rights as a witness?

During the investigation the police may ask you to give a witness statement. Usually you will be invited to tell what happened and the police officer will write an account of what you have said. Then you will be asked to verify if your statement was recorded correctly and sign it. Your witness statement may be used as evidence in court in certain circumstances such as if your evidence is not being challenged by the defence but you may be requested to give evidence at the trial in person.

Sometimes the Procurator Fiscal or someone on their behalf, known as a precognition officer or precognoscer, speaks to some or all of the witnesses individually about the case and the evidence they will give. This is called a precognition investigation interview, or precognition for short. It often takes place at the Fiscal’s office, and is a chance to make sure the Fiscal knows as much as possible about the case.

You might also be asked for a precognition by the defence solicitor.

More information about being a witness is available here.

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

If you are a child under 16 years of age, special measures may be available to assist you in giving evidence, if you are required to do so. More information about help that is available can be accessed here.

What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?

When you report a crime to the police you will be told whether or not the police will investigate the case.

For support and advice, as well as guidance about matters such as claiming compensation you will be referred (with your consent) to Victim Support Scotland.

Where applicable you may be referred to other specialist services (e.g. in relation to rape or sexual assault).

Can I receive legal aid?

You may be entitled to legal aid. If you want to apply for Legal Aid you should complete an application form for advice and assistance. Forms are available on the Scottish Legal Aid Board website.

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

If you and anyone else, with whom you have a close relationship, feel you are in danger or being harassed, you should let the police know. If someone is charged with the crime and you are worried about the accused being released, you should tell the police officer you are dealing with, or the Procurator Fiscal, or your solicitor about any concerns as soon as possible.

What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?

If the allegation is a police matter, you will be referred, with your consent, to Victim Support Scotland, which will give further support and guidance as appropriate.

Where applicable you will also be referred to other specialist services (e.g. in relation to rape or sexual assault).

Services are free of charge.

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

Some services are available which offer support to those affected by and those responsible for harm. These are based on restorative justice principles. The aim is to address behaviour in a way that empowers the people harmed, those responsible and wider community members to resolve issues in a constructive way.

More information is available here.

How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?

Once the police have completed the investigation, the case will be passed to the Procurator Fiscal who will examine whether there is enough evidence against the defendant and whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. If the Procurator Fiscal decides that a prosecution should go ahead the accused will be indicted and the case will go to court. In some less serious cases the Procurator Fiscal may decide that prosecution in court is not appropriate but that it is still in the public interest to take action. In those cases there are a number of direct measures available.These measures include warnings, fiscal fines, compensation offers and referral to specialist support and treatment.

Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?

You cannot appeal to the police or the Procurator Fiscal against a decision not to prosecute. However, you can seek explanation from the Procurator Fiscal.

You can ask the High Court to review the decision. It is very difficult to succeed in this process (which is known as “judicial review”) because the High Court will not substitute its view of the preferable course of action for that of the decision-maker. It will only make a ruling against the decision-maker if it decides that the decision was completely unreasonable (as distinct from undesirable). Even if the victim succeeds, the court will not order that the prosecution go ahead. It will, instead, order the decision-making organisation to review its decision in the light of the court’s findings. If you are considering this course of action you will need legal representation. Legal aid is available in some circumstances, but only if stringent criteria are satisfied (particularly concerning financial circumstances).

In certain circumstances an individual may seek to prosecute another person for a criminal offence. This is called a private prosecution. To bring a private prosecution you must have the Lord Advocate’s consent. This process is very costly and you cannot claim legal aid. It is therefore very rare.

It may be possible to undertake a civil action. A civil action is based on a different level of proof (on the balance of probabilities). A decision in a criminal case is based on proof “beyond reasonable doubt”. You would not be making a criminal allegation, but making a claim for damages. This can be a very long and expensive process and there is no guarantee you would get legal aid. If you are considering civil action you should get advice from a solicitor.

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

If you are a foreigner you have all the rights listed above.

In addition, if you do not speak English the authorities will try to ensure that a translation or interpreter is provided where information is given to you if this is necessary.

More information:

  • National Standards for Victims of Crime – in English
  • Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2004 – in English
  • Victims of Crime in Scotland website – in English
  • Witnesses in Scotland website – in English
  • Victim Support Scotland website – in English
Last update: 17/05/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

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