Call for legal change amid falling rape convictions in Scotland

Corroboration 'disproportionately affects rape cases', according to Rape Crisis Scotland. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto
Corroboration 'disproportionately affects rape cases', according to Rape Crisis Scotland. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto
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There are renewed calls for the centuries-old legal principle of corroboration to be scrapped amid concern over the falling rape conviction rate.

Figures released yesterday showed the proportion of prosecutions for rape and attempted rape resulting in a guilty verdict fell to 39 per cent in 2016-17, down from 49 per cent the previous year.

And the number of convictions decreased by 7 per 
cent from 105 to 98, despite a 
16 per cent rise in the number of cases brought to court.

Rape Crisis Scotland said the difficulty of getting cases to court in the first place showed it was time to revive proposals to remove the law of corroboration, which requires two independent pieces of ­evidence for a prosecution.

The Scottish Government dropped plans to scrap corroboration in 2015 following pressure from the legal fraternity and the publication of a report by Lord Bonomy which looked at legal safeguards.

Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “In a year where there were 1,878 rapes and attempted rapes reported to the police, there were only 98 convictions.

“The vast majority of reported rapes never make it to court.

“The most common reason rape survivors are given for this is the requirement in Scotland for corroboration. This disproportionately affects rape cases, and we believe that the time has come to look again at removing the requirement for corroboration.

“We also need to look at why only two in five cases which reach court lead to a conviction.”

The figures published yesterday show the number of people convicted for sexual crimes fell by 11 per cent to 1,037, the lowest in five years, although levels remain 37 per cent higher than in 2010-11.

Labour justice spokesman Daniel Johnson MSP said the rape figures were “cause for serious concern”.

He said: “We are seeing more rape and attempted rape cases, but convictions are falling, with only four in ten cases leading to conviction.

“These crimes are already under-reported. People need to have faith that coming forward means they will get support they need and see a robust process.”

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “While the relatively low conviction rate for rape reflects, in part, the challenging evidential requirements to prove this crime, the government will continue to seek to strengthen the law where possible, and how such cases are dealt with.

“Since last April judges are required to direct juries in certain sexual offence cases on how to consider evidence, specifically explaining why a victim may not physically resist their attacker, nor report an offence immediately.”