The Scottish Government today announced that it is to proceed with plans to abolish the Scots law requirement for corroboration in criminal cases despite the fact the majority of respondents to a consultation from the legal profession were against the controversial proposal.
Rape Crisis Scotland welcomes the continued commitment of the Scottish Government to remove corroboration, a barrier to some credible and viable cases getting to court.
However, the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has also announced a further consultation on "additional safeguards" which could be put in place if the requirement is removed, including proposals to increase the jury majority required to return a verdict: “Reforming Scots Criminal Law and Practice: Additional Safeguards Following the Removal of the Requirement for Corroboration“ – the closing date for responses is 15/3/13 – (see http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0041/00410935.pdf)
The new proposals have been put forward in the light of the responses to a consultation which followed a review of Scottish criminal law and practice, led by Lord Carloway.
An analysis of consultation responses was also published today, “Reforming Scots Criminal Law and practice: The Carloway Report - analysis of consultation responses” (see http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0041/00410913.pdf ) which revealed that the view expressed most widely by those opposed to the abolition of corroboration was that the requirement is a "fundamental part of Scottish criminal procedure" and that there needs to be a "far more intensive review" before any decision can be made.
Currently a jury in Scotland can convict on a majority of eight of 15 jurors, but the consultation is now seeking views on whether this should be changed to require a majority of nine or 10 of 15 jurors to return a verdict.
Ministers are also consulting on plans to provide the trial judge with a power to withdraw a case from a jury on application by the accused where the judge considers that, on the basis of the evidence led, no reasonable jury could convict.
Lord Carloway stated in his report that, in the event that it was proposed to look at jury majorities, it would also be necessary to consider whether the "third verdict" remained appropriate – and in fact a further consultation was also announced today, seeking views on whether the “not proven” verdict should also be abolished.
Published: 19th December 2012
Rape Crisis Scotland welcomes Lord Carloway’s recommendation that the requirement for corroboration be removed, and hopes that this will better equip our legal system to respond effectively to the reality faced by the vast majority of rape survivors. As most rape cases take place in private, with no witnesses and frequently little if any physical injury, the requirement for corroboration has presented rape complainers and prosecutors with unique difficulties in mounting effective cases.
We are, however, under no illusions that this move will constitute a
solution in and of itself to the difficulties faced by rape survivors in
obtaining justice. Corroboration is not a requirement in England and Wales,
and the conviction rate for rape there is not significantly higher than
it is in Scotland.
While this development may represent a step forward for rape complainers in Scotland,
we must continue to examine all possibilities in our efforts to give those who
have suffered this devastating crime the justice they deserve.
While the need for corroboration has presented one barrier to many cases getting to court, public attitudes present a further obstacle to women seeking justice for rape. For as long as some jurors continue to hold attitudes that blame the behaviour, dress, demeanour or reputation of women for rape, they will continue to be denied justice.
Published: 17th November 2011
The Scottish Government has today published new statistics on recorded crime in Scotland. These indicate that reported rapes & attempted rapes rose in the year 2010-11 by 14%. It should be borne in mind however, that the period covered by the new figures includes the first four months of implementation of the new Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act which came into force in December 2010. The new and wider definition of rape which is included in the Act means that it is likely that the rise in reported rape is due at least in part to the fact that some sexual crimes which would previously known under other offence headings are now considered as rape. While this may offer something of an explanation, any rise in the number of rapes reported is a matter for concern. The level of detail currently offered by statistics is not sufficient to offer an insight into the extent to which the changes the Act have played a part in the rise we see today, and Rape Crisis Scotland will continue to campaign for improvements not only in survivors' experiences of accessing justice, but also in a statistical picture which will allow us to gauge the extent of those improvements accurately.
Today’s statistics also show a drop in the “clear-up” rate for sexual crimes to 55%. A crime is considered to be “cleared-up” where there is a sufficiency of evidence under Scots law, to justify consideration of criminal proceedings. Rape is a serious crime that can take a great deal of courage to report, and for someone who has been through this experience to be told that their case will not be prosecuted can compound a devastating experience still further. It is currently the case in Scotland that only around 10% of cases of reported rapes are prosecuted, and it is vital that we continue to make every effort to ensure that the remaining 90% of rape complainers also have access to justice.
You can see the new statistics at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/09/02120241/0
Published: 6th September 2011
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has today published new figures on rape convictions in Scotland for the period 2008/9. These indicate that 7% of rapes reported to the police resulted in a conviction. While substantially higher than those previously extrapolated from other data made available by the Scottish Government, the new figures continue to show that there is no room for complacency and substantial improvements must yet take place in order to give survivors confidence that they will receive justice for this serious and damaging crime. The new figures also show that in 31% of cases indicted the accused was found or pled guilty.
While there have been some important and welcome changes over the past few years in the way rape is prosecuted in Scotland (for example with the setting up of the National Sexual Crimes Unit), it is worrying that so few cases get to court. The new figures released by the Crown Office show that over a third of rapes reported to the police never even make it as far as the Crown Office. It can take a lot of courage to report a crime like rape to the police, and it can be devastating to find out your case is not going to make it to court. There are grave concerns that this situation will worsen as a consequence of the recent Cadder judgement. Action must be taken to ensure that the prosecution rate for rape does not fall even further.
Efforts must also continue to ensure that data-gathering in this area is rigorous and robust so that clarity around improvements made and those still required can be guaranteed.
Rape Crisis Scotland continues to be contacted by women who feel very let down by the justice system, either because their case did not make it to court, or if it did, resulted in a not proven verdict. It is clear much remains to be done to ensure rape survivors have access to justice.
Published: 21st June 2011
Following the UK Supreme court’s Cadder ruling last year, the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill asked Lord Carloway to undertake a review to consider the implications of the ruling and make recommendations.
The Cadder ruling relates to an accused’s right to legal representation during police questioning, and has had a particular impact on sexual offences. Due to the difficulties in obtaining corroboration in sexual offences cases (because they often happen in private, with no witnesses) the police prior to Cadder were often reliant on admissions from the accused to help them build a case. Since the Cadder decision, defence lawyers seem to be routinely advising their clients to make no comment at all during police interviews, which is causing serious difficulties and has the potential to make prosecutions in rape cases even more difficult.
As well as considering questions relating to legal representation for the accused, Lord Carloway has also been considering broader issues relating to evidence, including the requirement for corroboration and whether or not juries should be able to draw an adverse inference if the accused remains silent and refuses to answer any questions. Rape Crisis Scotland has produced a briefing paper outlining our position on these questions raised by the Carloway Review and hope this will be helpful to other agencies planning to respond to the consultation. Click here to download the RCS briefing paper. The deadline for consultation responses is 3rd June 2011.
Published: 19th May 2011
New figures released by the Scottish Government show a significant increase in the proportion of rape cases which reach court leading to a conviction.
Out of 92 rapes prosecuted in 2009-10, there were 41 convictions. This compares with 26 convictions out of 85 rape prosecutions the previous year.
The recorded crime figures for the same year show that there were 884 rapes reported to the police. The proportion of reported rapes leading to a conviction was 4.6%, compared to 3% in 2008-09. The majority of reported rapes did not reach court – only approximately 10% of rapes were prosecuted. However, of the rapes prosecuted the conviction rate was 44.6%.
Rapes recorded by the police
Number of rapes prosecuted
Number of convictions
Recent years have seen significant changes in the way rape is investigated and prosecuted in Scotland. This has included the establishment of a dedicated National Sexual Crimes Unit to oversee the prosecution of sexual offences in Scotland. Rape Crisis Scotland is encouraged to see a quite significant increase in the number of rapes which get to court resulting in a conviction.
It remains, however, a matter of concern that so few rapes ever reach court. Rape is a crime which can take a lot of courage to report to the police, and finding out your case is not going to court can be devastating.
It is clear that much remains to be done, not least in changing attitudes to rape to try to minimize the impact that women blaming attitudes may have on jury deliberations. We hope that these new figures are indicative that as a nation we are moving in the right direction in improving access to justice following rape.
 The figures relating to rapes recorded by the police and court proceedings statistics are not directly comparable due to the police recording by offence and the court figures recording by accused (an accused might be responsible for more than one incident). However, these are the only figures available to measure the proportion of recorded rapes leading to a conviction.
Published: 11th February 2011
After several years in preparation, the most radical overhaul ever of the law on sexual offences in Scotland has now taken place. On 1st December 2010, the new Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act came into force, bringing with it a number of significant changes to the law on sexual offences in Scotland.
The definition of rape is now wider than was previously the case, reflecting a recognition within the law that men as well as women can be victims of rape. Consent is now defined in statute in Scotland for the very first time. Hopefully this will overcome problems caused by the subjective interpretations to which its previous location in common law inevitably left it open. Under the new law, consent is defined as “free agreement” and this is supported by a non-exhaustive list of circumstances which, if proved, will indicate that consent was not present. People with a limited or no capacity to consent (for example the very young, or those with a mental disorder) are also better protected within the terms of the new Act.
The new law legislates on a number of related offences. These include sexual coercion (forcing others to take part in sexual activities without their consent), voyeurism, sexual exposure, and sending indecent images by email or text. This Act also extends its jurisdiction beyond the UK in cases where offences against children are committed abroad. These can now be prosecuted In Scotland irrespective of where the offence was committed, or of laws which pertain in that country.
Rape Crisis Scotland welcomes the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act and the commitment it demonstrates to improving the prospects of those who have been victims of sexual violence in obtaining justice. It is important that the spirit of the Act is implemented with a rigour that matches this commitment, and that other measures which can support and facilitate these changes, such as effecting changes in public attitudes, will also remain very much in focus.
You can download an Outline Guide to the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 here.
Published: 2nd December 2010
Following a landmark decision by the UK Supreme Court, the
Scottish Government introduced emergency legislation which means
that police can no longer question suspects without a
lawyer present. Peter Cadder, who was convicted for assault based on
evidence obtained before he spoke to his lawyer, made an appeal based on
European human rights laws which was upheld. The new Scottish
introduces a right of access to legal advice before being questioned,
extends the period during which a person may be detained under section 14
of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, powers to adjust legal
aid eligibility rules and measures to ensure certainty and finality in
concluded cases. The Supreme Court judgement does not permit closed
cases to be reopened and as such will not be retrospective.
Anyone with queries or concerns about the Cadder judgement or its implications for their cases can find out more detail on the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal website at http://www.copfs.gov.uk/ or call the enquiry point number: 0844 561 3000. Anyone who may has moved or changed contact details should update the enquiry point or the PF office which dealt with the case with their new details. COPFS has details of all victims and witnesses. If the enquirer is able to supply a PF reference number, the name of an accused or even the PF office which dealt with the case, that will help to speed this process up.
Published: 27th October 2010