We hear time and time again from survivors just how valuable Rape Crisis support has been to them. The support Rape Crisis Centres offer can be truly lifesaving. When a survivor reaches out for support, it's crucial that they are able to receive it then. Not weeks or months later. But this is the reality facing too many survivors across Scotland. Demand for Rape Crisis support in Scotland has grown year upon year. But the resources available to meet this demand have not kept up.
After over a decade of austerity, long waiting lists for essential services, including Rape Crisis, have become the norm. Being on a waiting list simply means not having access to a service. We cannot accept this.
The Survivors Can't Wait campaign is calling for: Rape Crisis Scotland is calling for
An extension to emergency waiting list funding from the Scottish Government to protect 28 specialist jobs across the network
A commitment from the Scottish Government to sustainable and long-term funding for Rape Crisis services
Rape Crisis Scotland and 16 member Rape Crisis Centres across Scotland have published a formal response to the Independent Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Services in Scotland.
The strategic review, published in June of this year, made several welcome recommendations for the funding of VAWG services. These include implementing a legal right to access of VAWG services, which would mean that such services are no longer dependent on short-term, precarious funding. However, we have serious concerns over the review’s potential unintended negative consequences for Rape Crisis Centres in Scotland.
Up until now, every piece of evidence for every part of a crime must be backed up by another piece. This is corroboration. This is an issue which particularly affects sexual crime cases. Up until this week, for a rape to be prosecuted in Scotland, corroboration was needed for each element of the crime, so lack of consent, the identity of the accused, and penetration all had to be separately corroborated.
Last week, the High Court of Justiciary Appeal published a judgement about how corroboration is used in Scottish criminal trials. The judgement was published after the Lord Advocate had asked the Court to review how corroboration is used, specifically, requirements for corroboration in sexual offence cases.
This judgment sets out that from now, while corroboration is still required, there is no requirement to prove the separate elements of a crime by corroborated evidence. This is a seismic change, and one we hope will improve access to justice in relation to rape and sexual abuse.
Today's judgement from the High Court of Justiciary Appeal Court presents a seismic change for the use of corroboration and we hope it will be a very positive step for survivors seeking justice in Scotland.
The judgement outlines three key clarifications on corroboration:
- What requires to be proved by corroborated evidence is the case against the accused. That is, first, that the crime, which is libelled, was committed and secondly, that it was the accused who committed it. There is no requirement to prove the separate elements in a crime by corroborated evidence. (Clause 235)
- Distress, which is observed by a third party de recenti is capable of corroborating a complainer’s account that she has been raped; that she was penetrated by the accused’s penis without her consent. That penetration does not require to be corroborated separately (Clause 236)
- A statement which is made by a complainer some time after the relevant incident is normally hearsay and cannot be used as proof of fact. An exception to this is where that statement is made de recenti, when the complainer is in a distressed state. Both the statement and the distress, in combination, are available as proof of fact and as corroboration. They constitute real evidence, when spoken to by another witness. Neither is from the same source as the complainer’s testimony. (Clause 237)
Our response to this significant change
Most rape cases never make it to court. In many cases, this is because of the requirement in Scotland for corroboration. Up until now, this has meant that every piece of evidence must be backed up by another piece. This is an issue which particularly affects sexual crime cases.
This judgment sets out that from now, there is no requirement to prove the separate elements of a crime by corroborated evidence. This is a seismic change.
Survivors of sexual violence often delay reporting what has happened to them, for a variety of reasons. This means that it isn’t always possible to gather forensic evidence to prove that penetration occurred. In England, if a woman is raped or sexually abused but does not report or undergo a forensic medical exam within a short timeframe, it is still possible for her case to get to court. In Scotland, this is far less likely. This isn’t acceptable.
Today’s judgement from the High Court of Justiciary Appeal Court upheld the Lord Advocate’s contention that distress should be capable of corroborating penetration. This is a very welcome and significant development. The requirement for penetration to be independently corroborated has acted as a barrier to rape and abuse survivors receiving the justice they are entitled to. The Court also held that a complainer’s account can be corroborated if she or he is seen in a distressed state by an independent witness and says that she or he was raped.
We commend the Lord Advocate for bringing the case, and to survivors of sexual violence, including the Speak Out Survivors group, for their work campaigning for change. This judgment should go some way to address the current injustice faced by survivors in these circumstances.
We have published written evidence on the Scottish Government’s Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform Bill (Scotland). Our evidence sets out what survivors have told us they think of the bill and the impact we believe it could have on the experiences of survivors seeking justice.
Our evidence was informed by the perspectives of survivors of sexual violence from across Scotland who shared their views about the bill with us and what difference they feel it could make for survivors’ experience of the Scottish justice system. Our evidence was also shaped by Rape Crisis Centres across Scotland, who work with survivors going through the justice system every day.
- Survivors Can't Wait campaign launches
- Our full response to the Independent Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of VAWG Services
- New changes to corroboration rules - an explainer
- Judgment from the High Court of Justiciary Appeal Court on how corroboration is used in Scotland
- Our written evidence on the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform Bill