Scottish justice system places a higher value on Rolex watches than on raped women and children
Guest blog by @giantyellowbumblebee (Twitter)
The Gleneagles armed robbery case of two men stealing more than £500,000 worth of luxury watches from a boutique at the five star hotel caught my attention due to the high sentences given: totalling 29 years between 2 men; 18 years and 11 years.
A Defence lawyer on Radio Scotland said this was due to the 'high value' of the crime and because it was 'violent in nature'. A discussion evolved with John Beattie citing rape case sentencing of five years for a perpetrator who raped a women who was sleeping, compared with the high sentencing given in this armed robbery. The Judge sentencing in this case stated the criminals carried out 'an act of serious premeditated criminality'.
That's just like the rape, an 'act of serious premeditated criminality' that I had endured at the hands of my Uncle, aged just 12. How he tricked me into being alone with him, offering me 'a special hug'. I wanted to hit him, but thought it 'wasn't nice', that I would get in trouble. My right arm went limp and despite my attempts at getting away he continued to, rape me. My recent brush with the Scottish Judicial System felt equally futile. My case never even crossed into a court despite strong corroborating evidence of my distress afterwards and the circumstances surrounding the rape.
The way that the law on corroboration has evolved in Scotland means that every essential element has to be corroborated by a second source of evidence. Can you imagine how difficult it would be for me to obtain corroborated evidence of the 'act of penetration' when my parents kept me home from school and intimidated me into silence to prevent me seeking help? In an abusive family setting where family often act to cover up child sexual abuse the law on corroboration acts as such a total barrier to justice that it has been said by victim-survivors, 'that you may as well decriminalise child sexual abuse'. This law in Scotland fails the most vulnerable and serves to protect child rapists and the people who protect them.
The police told me I had a strong case with lots of circumstantial evidence and I have been told by a lawyer that my family's lies would not stand up in a Court of Law. However, due to the archaic rule of corroboration, none of this evidence can even be put before a jury. Had this crime occurred in England or Wales my case would probably have gone to court. Every other country in Europe out performs Scotland on rape convictions. Every other country in Europe, and this dates back to at least 2000, as I have read in Scottish Government research. Yet, the Government make no material improvement as both prosecution and conviction rates continue to decline. The old excuse 'rape is hard to prosecute' isn't one a Government should use. However hard they may claim to be trying they clearly are not succeeding.
Their own report in 2011, the Carloway review, found the rule on corroboration to be 'unjust' and 'not fit for a modern Justice system'. No other country considers corroboration to be necessary to have a fair trial and it is unique to Scotland. Hold that in your mind when you consider why we are delivering the worst justice in Europe.
I reported my rape in 2015, along with 1808 other victim-survivors. That year the Scottish justice system delivered a 12% prosecution rate, with 216 cases going to court, a 5.75% conviction rate on reported rapes, with 1593 of us not getting anywhere near a court. As the 1593 of us know: the silence and impunity that follows after the decision not to proceed is one that echoes the culture that allowed the sexual abuse to flourish in the first place. Justice systems should do better. The Criminal Justice system is long overdue radical reform because we deserve judicial systems that deliver effective justice.
The man in the Gleneagles case was deemed a 'danger to the public', as is the man who raped me. I know I am not the only one. The defence lawyer stated there was the 'potential for injury' in the Gleneagles case and I compare this to the ordeal I suffered and the struggles with post traumatic stress that I have endured. I thought I was going to die. I was terrified. The word rape is derived from the Latin 'raptor' meaning 'to seize, to take by force, theft'. Yet the Criminal Justice system in Scotland places a higher value on the theft of watches than the absolute worst thing that can happen to a women, bar murder. I did not even have my case heard.
I think the Scottish Government should make it a priority that the Scottish Criminal justice system provides access to justice for women and children who have been raped and demonstrates that it values them more than Rolex watches.