A judicially led review, chaired by the Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, will develop new proposals for how sexual offences are dealt with within the Scottish Criminal Justice System.
At Rape Crisis Scotland we consistently hear that many survivors feel let down by the justice process, and yet the volume and complexity of sexual offences has grown so much in recent years that the majority of High Court trials now relate to recent or historical sexual offences. This review is clearly a significant opportunity to think creatively and practically about building a system that has fairness and dignity at its heart.
According to the Judiciary, the review group – which will be made up of judiciary and representatives of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, Police, COPFS, justice agencies and third sector organisations – will look at the opportunities to manage cases in a way which is efficient, delivers justice as locally as possible at the earliest opportunity, and improves the experience of complainers in giving their evidence.
“We are hopeful about the potential this review brings because it is impossible to underestimate just how necessary and urgent action on improving rape survivors experience of the justice system is. What is especially welcome is the approach of Lady Dorrian in looking at the prosecution of sexual offences cases with a blank slate - this gives all of us the opportunity to think creatively and imagine a system that protects both the human rights of those accused of serious sexual crime, and those who are complainers.
"It's never going to be easy to pursue justice following rape or sexual violence, but there are concrete actions that can be taken to reduce the trauma currently experienced by complainers. We look forward to working closely with Lady Dorrian and the whole group on this important issue."
– Sandy Brindley, Rape Crisis Scotland
“This is an opportunity for all the organisations involved to look at the overview of sexual offences prosecuted in our courts and deliver an improved approach to ensure that these cases are dealt with as efficiently and effectively as possible for all concerned. It will also consider how to improve the experience of victims when giving their evidence.”
– Lady Dorrian
New figures released today by the Scottish Government show that almost one in five trials for rape or attempted rape result in a Not Proven verdict.
The figures also show a fall in the number of prosecutions but a slight increase in the number of convictions.
• Almost one in five rape and attempted rape trials result in a not proven verdict.
• 43% of rape and attempted rape trials result in a conviction.
Today sees the publication of a new report,
Interest Litigation in Scotland, which explores why
there is a lack of strategic court action in Scotland and suggests recommendations
to address this.
It suggests key barriers are:
- Poor access to information about court cases;
- Limitations to who can take a case to court;
- Short time-limits for taking cases;
- Inhibitive costs and financial risk;
- A limited culture of using public interest litigation to bring change.
Authors Clan Childlaw, Human Rights Consortium Scotland, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Shelter Scotland, JustRight Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland are clear that if we are to see human rights progressed in Scotland, we need more NGOs to be able to pursue strategic cases.
We write to express our significant concern with respect to your letter
dated 8th of March outlining the shift in approach of the Crown Office
in dealing with reluctant complainers in rape cases, effective from
today, and ask that you urgently reconsider this change to policy.
We share the knowledge that rape is an awful crime that can leave a lasting and profound impact on those who experience this violence. It is no secret that the concept of justice is one that is frequently far removed from the reality of survivors of sexual violence in Scotland today. I know you are also aware of the many barriers that stand in the way for those who pursue justice and even though considerable work has been done to address and remove these obstacles there remains a stubborn gap between those who experience sexual violence and their ability to access justice and we are clear that there is much more to do.