Scots regulator has ‘serious concerns’ over use of sex history in rape trials

Scotland’s equality regulator has raised “serious concerns” over the use of survivors’ sexual history in rape and sexual assault trials in Scotland.

Social distancing and safety measures inside court one at the High Court in Edinburgh as Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Social distancing and safety measures inside court one at the High Court in Edinburgh as Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Sharing the findings of a new study into the subject, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) called for an urgent review of how courts and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) respond when survivors of sexual violence have details of their sex lives raised during trials.

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The EHRC’s research was conducted by Professor Sharon Cowan from the University of Edinburgh School of Law, and found that while laws are already in place to stop the use of sexual history and bad character when it is not sufficiently connected to the facts of the case, there was a suggestion that “Crown prosecutors rarely challenge the introduction of irrelevant sexual history”. It pointed to five recent High Court appeal cases where senior judges raised significant concerns about the way the law is being implemented.

Professor Cowan said: “We can see that there are serious problems in the application of the law but we don’t know how widespread these problems are. It is time for Scotland to ensure that the rules are being properly implemented.”

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