New Evidence and Hearings Centre in the Spotlight

Jan 20, 2020

SCTS is welcoming members of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee on a visit to the recently opened Evidence and Hearings Suite, Glasgow on 20 January, the day that legislation comes into force to ensure that child witnesses in the most serious criminal cases will have their evidence pre-recorded.  Parliament unanimously passed the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act last year, and it comes into effect today.

The new Glasgow suite was designed with input from children and vulnerable witnesses to provide child-friendly hearing rooms for the pre-recording of evidence. It also incorporates “live link” rooms for evidence given by TV link to court, waiting rooms and support spaces.  There is a sensory room to help create a calm and supportive environment.

New facilities are also being provided in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness in support of the legislation’s aims.  The new Glasgow facility has hosted around 350 visitors from justice and third sector organisations keen to see the ground-breaking facilities and to understand how pre-recording of evidence will operate as part of the court process.

At the opening in November 2019, Lady Dorrian said:

“Our work on the Evidence and Procedure Review highlighted that subjecting children to the traditional adversarial form of examination and cross-examination at court is no longer acceptable; is unlikely to elicit the best quality of evidence and has the potential to cause further distress.

“This new Suite will help children and vulnerable witnesses to give their best evidence, and have it tested, in a supportive environment, still respecting the need for a fair trial. Trauma-informed staff will manage the hearings and live TV links to court, taking account of the specific needs or vulnerabilities of the witness. This is another significant step in improving the way in which children and vulnerable witnesses are treated in our criminal justice system.”


While the legislation introduces a presumption that children in certain cases will provide pre-recorded evidence to spare them the trauma of court appearance, pre-recording of evidence has been available to the courts for some time.  Following the “Report of the Pre-Recorded Further Evidence Work-Stream” (Sep 2017, SCTS),  a new High Court Practice note was issued to encourage increased use prior to the legislation being introduced. In 2017 there were 50 applications and that has now risen substantially. (160 in 2018, and 152 in 2019)

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service’s purpose-built suite has been made possible with £2m funding from the Scottish Government.

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