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Highland charity lead says landmark ruling a 'seismic change' in the way rape cases will be treated in Scotland

By Rachel Smart

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Ruling 'seismic change' for rape cases in Scottish courts.
Ruling 'seismic change' for rape cases in Scottish courts.

A landmark ruling by senior judges is a 'seismic change' in the way rape will be prosecuted in Scotland, the chief executive of Rape and Sexual Abuse Service Highland (RASASH) has said.

The panel of seven Appeal Court judges said that there will no longer need to be evidence from two separate sources that penetration has taken place.

Instead, evidence that the victim was distressed afterwards could be used to corroborate the rape allegation.

Romy Rehfield, chief executive of RASASH, said: “Most rape cases never make it to court. In many cases, this is because of the requirement in Scotland for corroboration. Up until now, this has meant that every piece of evidence must be backed up by another piece. This is an issue which particularly affects sexual crime cases.

"This judgment sets out that from now, there is no requirement to prove the separate elements of a crime by corroborated evidence. This is a seismic change. We very much welcome this development.

“Survivors of sexual violence often delay reporting what has happened to them, for a variety of reasons. The judgement on corroboration should go some way to address the current injustice faced by survivors and improve confidence in the criminal justice system.”

The court had been asked to examine the issue by Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC.

The Lord Advocate raised the case after a trial in Aberdeen last year in which a judge directed the jury that evidence from three witnesses that the alleged victim had been distressed and screaming that she was raped could not corroborate that rape had occurred.

The accused was cleared by a majority not proven verdict.

On this week's ruling, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC said: “As Lord Advocate, my fundamental commitment is to upholding the rule of law and to directing an effective, rigorous and fair prosecution system. Since my appointment, I have sought to do all within my power to deliver justice for women and girls, who are disproportionately impacted by sexual offences.

“The potential to introduce transformative change, such as through this Lord Advocate’s reference, was one motivation for me in taking this office.

“Today’s decision has the potential to transform the way we prosecute all offences, in particular sexual offences, and will improve access to justice for more victims.

“This ruling clarifies just what is needed to constitute a sufficiency of evidence. COPFS will now consider the terms of the ruling carefully. Prosecutors will take time to consider what it means for our work and plan for the future resourcing of COPFS.”


Romy added: "We want people in Highland to know that support is available to anyone affected by sexual violence, whether it happened recently or a long time ago. Our Support Line is available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – 9.30am-1pm and Tuesday and Thursday – 1pm-4.30pm on 03330 066909. And Rape Crisis Scotland Support Line is open daily, 5pm-midnight on 08088 010302.”

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