Scots rape victims "traumatised" by court experience

Scots victims of sex crime are often traumatised by the court system. Picture posed by a model.
Scots victims of sex crime are often traumatised by the court system. Picture posed by a model.
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A "high number" of Scots rape and sex assault victims are walking away from court action against their attackers because they can't face the "trauma and degradation" of a trial, a new report has found.

A lack of with communication with women victims on the part of prosecutors, who don't take enough account of victims' understanding of the court system, has been highlighted in an Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland.

Its report into the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences calls for a range of improvements in the system.

Campaigners say it raises "serious concerns" about the response of the justice system to rape.

The report includes stark testimony from rape victims who were left traumatised by their experience of the justice system, including one assertion that it "was worse then being raped."

Another added: "In our court system you are totally humiliated. It was the most degrading experience I have been through."

Sex crimes have been steadily rising in Scotland as more voctimis come forward. They now account for about 75% of the Crown Office and Prosecution Service's (COPFS) work the country's High Courts.

Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland: "What women are telling us is that their experience of the justice

process, and particularly of giving evidence in court, is so traumatic that even in cases where there is a conviction, the cost of getting justice was too high."

"This is in no way acceptable.”

The Crown Office is now reforming the way it works to take account of this increase in cases.

A spokeswoman said: "Most of the cases examined by the report date from a time before the implementation of COPFS new Victim Strategy which was introduced earlier this year.

"The Law Officers attach a great deal of importance to ensuring we fulfil our obligations to victims."

Inspectors say a more proactive approach towards victims, tailored to individual vulnerabilities and needs is required by the Crown Office.

They also say that the method and timing of communication should be agreed with victims at the outset.

Michelle Macleod, HM Chief Inspector said there were "many dedicated professionals" in the Crown Office seeking to achieve "the best outcome for each case."

But she added: "The high number of victims who disengage during the criminal justice process, after taking the significant step to report such crimes, infers that more could be done by the criminal justice system, in which COPFS is arguably the key organisation, to secure their participation throughout the process.”