Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes MSP has welcomed the decision of the Scottish Government to ensure legal aid is available to victims of crime so they can be represented when their confidential records are sought by defence lawyers.
Today the Justice Secretary confirmed the Scottish Government will not be appealing the outcome of a landmark judicial review by the Court of Session that questioned Scottish Ministers’ argument that legal aid should be refused for a woman whose medical records were sought by the accused. He also acknowledged changes to the legal aid system need to be made and said that interim arrangements have been put in place to ensure provision of legal aid in those circumstances.
Ms McInnes has been continuously calling on the Scottish Government to guarantee access to legal aid for victims when the defence tries to access their confidential medical, psychiatric or psychological records.
Ms McInnes said: “This will be welcome news to victims, not just of rape and sexual assault but of all crimes. These are people who have had to go through horrific experiences only to have the accused digging around in their personal records in an attempt to try and discredit their story.
“Anyone whose personal records are being sought deserve to be represented at those legal hearings. It shouldn’t come down to whether you can afford a lawyer or not.
“Today’s acknowledgement by the Justice Secretary that changes are needed to the legal aid system will remove a significant barrier for victims. There is no need for a change in legislation – this can be put in place right now. The interim arrangements he described are welcome but they do need to be backed up by a more permanent solution so victims’ have their fundamental right to be heard upheld.”