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Successful Civil Rape Case Exposes Cracks in Criminal System

The second ever Scottish successful civil damages case for rape following an unsuccessful criminal prosecution has been announced, marking a significant day for survivors and justice in Scotland.

This is the third successful civil damages case for rape in Scotland, the second following a criminal prosecution.

After 6 years and 5 months of fighting for justice Ms AB - the survivor who took the case – is relieved and describes feeling overcome with emotion after what often felt to be a never-ending ordeal.

This case is thought to be the second of its kind – following the high-profile case of Miss M – and raises serious questions about the efficacy of the criminal justice system in delivering for survivors of sexual crimes.

The judgement can be read here.

Response to Updated Paper from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research

“We welcome this updated paper on court delays and the impact of these on victim-survivors of sexual crimes from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. It adds growing weight to the calls for real, urgent action.

Before Covid we know that court delays were experienced as being very unpredictable, difficult, and traumatic by survivors being supported by Rape Crisis. Lengthy waits and last-minute changes meant that survivors often felt as though their lives were put on hold, and as though they were trapped in the trauma and unable to move forward. Now – with the court backlog estimated to take until 2026 to clear – the situation is untenable.

These are not problems that are without solutions. There are credible and robust options – including the use of judge led trials – that must be considered if we are to ensure that survivor and public confidence in the justice systems does not diminish even further. These options require courage and leadership and for us all to accept that doing nothing is not an option.” - Sandy Brindley, Rape Crisis Scotland

Response to the Criminal Justice Committee Report

We welcome the report today released by the Criminal Justice Committee and particularly the calls for urgency. Though the justice system is complex, and changes to these systems are slow, this should not be confused for the fact that there are solutions to the issues that we face.

Solutions – including implementation of the recommendations of Lady Dorrian’s review – require political will and resource, and this exactly is what survivors need and deserve.

The experiences shared by the survivors that we supported in November were powerful and distressing, and we are grateful to those who took part to advocate for change. The trauma of the sexual violence that the survivors had experienced was in many cases compounded by a system that too often at best is not responding appropriately to victims of sexual crimes and at worst is actively retraumatising. Their calls for urgent change should be heard.

Sexual offences require a specialist approach and system redesign. Though we are encouraged by the recommendations in the report that refer to communication and process – both areas that survivors are deeply impacted by – we cannot shy away from the bigger, structural elements that stand in the way of justice for so many survivors.

We were glad to see the recommendation of the expansion of the National Advocacy Project as the main resource that we have to mitigate the trauma inflicted upon survivors by the justice system. Survivors describe advocacy support as life-saving – and if survivors are to continue to be asked to engage with a system that too often does not uphold or protect their rights, nor serve any form of justice, then it is imperative that advocacy is resourced and able to be there for every survivor who wants it, at the point of need.

The pandemic has been devastating for so many, and it has exposed and deepened the cracks that already existed for survivors of rape and sexual assault seeking justice.

Seeking justice after sexual crimes will never be easy, but it categorically does not have to be this hard. There is no inevitability to the harms being inflicted by our justice system and we cannot accept them as such. We welcome this report and look forward to engaging with the action that it must result in.

The full report and recommendations can be read here.

Response to Tribunal

“We regret that we were not successful in defending our case at this tribunal.

We believe that we have a responsibility to take complaints of bullying and racism very seriously and are disappointed that the tribunal did not agree with our actions in relation to these. The judgment contains numerous factual errors. We strongly disagree with their approach to racist behaviour, however we will reflect carefully on the judgment and consider what further steps are appropriate.

As an organisation our absolute priority is working to create an environment where staff and volunteers feel safe, supported and able to thrive. We are committed to ongoing learning in this regard and will look to what more that we can do as an organisation to ensure that all of our team have the support and resources to enable this.”

- Spokesperson for Rape Crisis Scotland

Response to Evidence Presented to Criminal Justice Committee

"The backlog figures quoted by the Lord Advocate today are deeply concerning. Behind these figures is the human cost and the distress and trauma that many survivors are subject to as a result of endless waits for their cases to come to court

We share the concerns that the Lord Advocate raised at the Criminal Justice Committee today and absolutely support her call for a re-consideration of Judge-led trials. Not doing anything is not an option in a country that claims to value fairness and justice, nor can we make tiny changes and hope the situation resolves itself. Bold action is needed.

We hear daily from survivors about the distress and suffering that long delays in the court process are causing, with survivors often left with little to no information or certainty. We cannot simply accept this as an inevitable side effect of the pandemic and we urge the Scottish Parliament to act and find radical action and innovative solutions."

- Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland

Full story in The Herald here.

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