Sandy Brindley: It will not mean a flood of cases
Figures from the Crown Office suggest that only around a fifth of rapes reported to the police ever make it as far as court.
What does it mean when a legal system is only able to respond to such a small proportion of what is generally recognised as one of the most serious and devastating crimes?
The requirement for corroboration in Scotland has a particular impact on sexual offences. Due to the nature of the crime, there are often few witnesses, meaning that, with the exception of rapes involving significant levels of violence, corroboration can be particularly difficult to find.
During a six-month period in 2010, 141 cases were reported to the National Sexual Crimes Unit where the accused was not put on petition (ie not prosecuted).
The Crown Office believes that in 67 per cent of these cases there was a reasonable prospect of conviction. This suggests that, due to the technical requirement for corroboration, cases with potentially strong evidence are not making it to court.
If survivors of rape are to have any chance of obtaining justice, we need a legal system which is able to respond to the reality of rape, which is frequently committed by someone known, and where it is not uncommon to have no evidence of physical injury. We need to be clear that removing the requirement to corroboration does not mean there will be a flood of cases with very little evidence making it to court, or an unacceptable risk of miscarriages of justice.
There will still be a test against which cases will be judged before they can proceed to court, but it will be one based on the quality of the evidence, not the quantity.
Rape is a crime which can be devastating to experience.Equally devastating can be the experience of being let down by the justice system you believed was there to protect you.
Too many rape survivors have told us this is exactly how they have felt. Miscarriages of justice don’t only happen to those accused of crimes.
• Sandy Brindley is national co-ordinator at Rape Crisis Scotland.
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