Video to help rape victims negotiate Scots justice system launched

Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland says a new video should help rape survivors better negotiate the criminal justice system.
Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland says a new video should help rape survivors better negotiate the criminal justice system.
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A new video explaining the criminal justice system to survivors of sexual violence has been launched in the hope that it will increase access to justice.

Rape Crisis Scotland has launched an updated film, which features key people in the system, to try and make a "complex and disorientating" process more understandable for rape victims.

The video, which was funded by the Scottish Government, sets out each stage of the process, who is involved and what their role is - and includes a specially trained police officer, a rape crisis advocacy worker, a Procurator Fiscal, a defence lawyer, an advocate for the prosecution and a judge.

Statistics have shown that the conviction rate for rape and attempted rape in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level in eight years, with 39 per cent of those taken to court in 2017 found guilty, down from 49 per cent the previous year and despite a 16 per cent rise in court proceedings.

According to RCS the vast majority of reported rapes never reach court, and when they do, juries still make decisions based on "misunderstandings about reactions to rape" rather than evidence. The organisation is campaigning to get rid of the requirement for corroboration in rape cases, as well as the not proven verdict.

Today, Chief Executive of RCS, Sandy Brindley said she hoped the video will increase access to justice for crimes that are "widely under-reported".

“There’s no silver bullet when it comes to addressing the issues survivors experience within the criminal justice system, and even though there has been significant effort and improvements in recent years, we should be in no doubt that there is much more to do," she said.

“Rape Crisis has always and will always support survivors whether they choose to report or not, but we believe that knowledge is power and are glad to be relaunching this video and demystifying the justice process.

“We’re pleased that the Cabinet Secretary and Lord Advocate have set aside the time to meet directly with from those who have experience of seeking justice, and we hope their voices are heard.”

The launch today was marked by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Lord Advocate James Wolffe meeting with RCS and survivors of sexual violence, to hear first hand accounts of how the criminal justice system needs to improve. They met with the Survivor Reference Group, which is made up of survivors from across Scotland who have had some degree of engagement with the justice system and who work to identify common issues that survivors experience in pursuing justice and make recommendations for improvement.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Listening to the views of survivors of rape and sexual assault is vital as we work to put victims’ rights at the centre of the justice system. I am grateful to the members of the Survivor Reference Group who are prepared to speak out where the system is not delivering for their needs.

“We know the criminal justice process can be daunting and I am determined that we continue to make improvements to ensure it is trauma-informed at every stage. Only those who have been through this process can tell us what it really feels like and what matters to them.

“I hope that the new video resource will help survivors navigate the system and increase access to justice for victims of these appalling crimes.”

Hannah, a rape survivor said: “In my case the experience of the criminal justice system was more damaging than the assault itself. I pursued justice with the realistic knowledge that a conviction was near impossible and that I would have to live under the shadow of a trial for long period of time. There was no way of preparing for the disappointed and mental consequences of what I experienced during that time.

“I am grateful that we have been presented with this opportunity to voice our opinions in the hopes of improving experiences of those who come after us.”