The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee is undertaking a fact-finding visit to Oslo as part of inquiries into police and fire reform and the Vulnerable Witnesses Bill, giving MSPs an international perspective on subjects they are currently scrutinising.
Like Scotland, Norway also recently reformed its police service. And measures proposed by the Scottish Government to help vulnerable witnesses, such as the Barnehus (or Children’s House) model, have already been adopted in Norway.
The Committee will meet with Justice Minister Knut Morten Johansen, the Deputy Chief of Police, Eva Sjøholt-Sandvik, senior officials, and visit a Barnehus.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Committee Convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said:
“Learning from experiences in other parts of the world helps lawmakers to see the bigger picture. It provides a valuable opportunity and a sensible way to consider possible changes to laws.”
“Scotland and its legal system have unique characteristics which must be taken into account.
“However, similar developments in Norway’s justice system, in both policing and how vulnerable witnesses give criminal evidence, mean that there is much to learn from them.
“The Justice Committee hopes to bring back valuable information that can be taken into account in Scotland.”
The Barnehus model means that young people who have to give evidence in a criminal trial (either as a victim or witness) do not have to appear in court. They are interviewed in a Barnehus, as well as offered support there. Adopting a similar model in Scotland is one of the proposals contained in the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill which the Justice Committee is currently scrutinising.
Norway has a national police force, which has recently undergone some reform (reduction in the number of divisions). The experience of this will inform the post-legislative scrutiny review the Committee is currently compiling on the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 which created Scotland-wide police and fire services.
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