The Innocent Victims of the Criminal Justice System

According to Matthew Thomson, solicitor and legal aid policy officer at the Law Society of Scotland, criminal defence solicitors have their work cut out for them.

He says “Criminal proceedings are, more often than not, stressful, complicated and time consuming. The end result can be devastating for the accused.”

All true.

But what about the families left behind? The parents, partners, siblings and, perhaps most importantly, the estimated 20,000 children in Scotland who have a parent in prison each year.

They are innocent but are often treated as though they are guilty. They feel stigma, rejection, victimisation, and rarely know who to turn to for help.

For them, the sentence of a family member can be even more devastating than it is for the accused. It’s no wonder they are referred to as the ‘innocent’ victims.

Families Outside is a national Scottish charity and the only organisation in Scotland to work exclusively on behalf of families affected by imprisonment. Through their Helpline and Regional Support Coordinators, they support thousands of families across Scotland each year, helping with issues such as housing, finance, anxiety, and depression.

“I was suicidal when I contacted Families Outside,” explained one family member, “I felt isolated and had no self-worth – I could not cope with having given birth to a son whose behaviour had affected so many people.

“I was able to speak openly to all of the staff at Families Outside; they were professional but ‘human’, giving me the time and space to share all kinds of emotions and thoughts without being judged. They gave me confidence, reassured me and eased my anxiety.

“I cannot emphasise enough how the service literally saved my life and how it is a crucial life line to many other families in need.”

If you, or your client, are having a bad day, remember the ‘innocent victims’ and put them in touch with the Families Outside team on 0800 254 0088, or visit

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