Rape Crisis Scotland call for radical reform as Inspectorate of Prosecution release report into the prosecution of sexual crime
Rape Crisis Scotland have today condemned the ‘unacceptable’ findings of a review into the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Crimes released by the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland. Survivors’ voices contained within the report recount the trauma, degradation and humiliation of the court system, with one survivor describing the process as ‘worse than being raped’. Rape Crisis say that the report must act as an urgent wake up call, highlighting the critical need for improvement in legal responses to rape in Scotland.
“I was not prepared.... it was the most degrading and terrifying thing.”
“In our court system, you are totally humiliated. It was the most degrading experience I have been through”.
“Court was absolutely horrendous, it was worse than being raped”.
“Although there was a guilty verdict, I would never go through it again.”
In addition to the overall dissatisfaction from rape complainers highlighted in the quotes above and damning feedback, the report details specific areas of concern. These include:
· Complainers’ cases being allocated to floating trial diets resulting in significant uncertainty;
· Considerable and long delays in the progression of cases, in particular in pre-petition cases;
· Significant and concerning gaps in communication; in one case it took 15 months from the police report for the Crown to contact the complainer;
· Poor standards of communication from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in pre-petition cases with almost half of cases being below the standard expected;
· Significant proportions (12%) of sexual offence complainers withdrawing from the process.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson will open
Scotland’s forthcoming conference on ‘Responding to the support and
justice needs of survivors of sexual violence’, which takes place in Glasgow on 9th November.
The conference, which marks the 10th anniversary of Rape Crisis Scotland’s National Helpline, will include inputs on trauma, the impact of Rape Crisis Scotland’s National Advocacy Project (which supports survivors through the justice process), and will also look at ways in which services can be made more accessible.
Today the Rape Crisis National Helpline celebrates 10 years of supporting people affected by sexual violence.
The service was launched and started taking calls on 11th October 2007, and since that time has responded to over 41,000 contacts from people looking for support and information about sexual violence. Most of these (almost 36,000) were calls, with over 5000 of the remaining contacts coming in by email. The National Helpline is committed to providing as accessible a service as possible, and has undertaken a number of developments in the past 10 years to improve accessibility. The helpline offers confidential support and information to service users by email as well as over the phone, and a Deaf access service is available every Tuesday afternoon, with enhanced access via online BSL interpreter through Contact Scotland BSL as well as by SMS text. This service was launched in 2009 and since then all volunteers and staff have undergone deaf awareness training prior to staffing the helpline.
Rape Crisis Scotland’s National Helpline celebrates 10 years of supporting survivors this year and is holding a 10th Anniversary conference on 9th November.
This conference will
look at the developments the helpline has made, how the work has fed into wider
changes in policy and practice, as well as looking to the future.
Key note speakers include:
- Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice
- Sandie Barton, Director of Operations, Rape Crisis Scotland
- Sandra Ferguson, Programme Manager NES Trauma Training Framework Team
- Stuart Houston, Detective Superintendent, National Rape Task Force
- Oona Brooks, Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research, University of Glasgow
As part of Evidence & Procedure Review, the Scottish Courts & Tribunal Service has today published a report which outlines measures which could improve the way children and vulnerable witnesses experience the court process.
These include encouraging and improving the use of taking evidence by a Commissioner (the current system where a child or vulnerable witness can be questioned in advance of trial, under the supervision of a judge) and changes to legislation to shorten the gap between initial interview and further examination. The report also sets out a long term vision based around the Barnahus (Children’s House) model in place in Scandinavian countries - initially for children, but extended later to other vulnerable witnesses. The Barnahus model spares children from repetitive interviews by different agencies in a variety of locations, which can be harmful and confusing, and can damage the quality of their evidence.