Po­lice move to boost con­vic­tions for rape

New na­tional force pro­poses 14 spe­cial units and ded­i­cated ad­vo­cates for vic­tims

The Scotsman - - Front Page - GareTh rose HOME AF­FAIRS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

ARAFT of new mea­sures to help rape vic­tims is be­ing planned with the in­tro­duc­tion of Scot­land’s new na­tional po­lice force,

TheS­cots­man can re­veal. Pro­pos­als in­clude an ad­vo­cate rep­re­sent­ing rape vic­tims from the moment they report the crime and through­out the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and court process.

Scot­land’s new na­tional force, which comes into ef­fect in April, will also cre­ate 14 spe­cial­ist rape teams across the coun­try’s di­vi­sions.

Se­nior of­fi­cers at the head of the new sin­gle po­lice ser­vice are de­ter­mined to im­prove the coun­try’s record in tack­ling sex­ual crimes.

Scot­land once had one of Europe’s worst con­vic­tion rates for rape, and while that has im­proved, helped in part by the Sex­ual Of­fences (Scot­land) Act 2009 broad­en­ing the def­i­ni­tion of the crime, po­lice be­lieve there is still a long way to go.

Part of that process is the aim of mak­ing vic­tims more con­fi­dent about re­port­ing rape. Cur­rent es­ti­mates sug­gest nine out of ten fe­male rape vic­tims in Scot­land do not report the crime to po­lice.

Rape Cri­sis Scot­land has con­sis­tently called for a lawyer to rep­re­sent vic­tims in

Thurs­day 3 Jan­uary 2013 rape cases, act­ing along­side pros­e­cu­tion and de­fence coun­sel, and the or­gan­i­sa­tion has been in­volved in talks with po­lice about the new pro­pos­als.

The lawyer would di­rectly rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests of the vic­tim and op­pose the in­tro­duc­tion of sex­ual his­tory ev­i­dence at the trial.

Rape Cri­sis Scot­land says vic­tims can some­times feel as if they are the ones on trial dur­ing court cases, when their char­ac­ter, sex­ual his­tory or med­i­cal records come un­der scru­tiny.

Although Po­lice Scot­land’s plans are still in the early stages and un­der devel­op­ment, they have been cre­ated with the help of the cam­paign group.

The na­tional force will now speak to the Scot­tish Government to try to se­cure fund­ing for the scheme.

It is es­ti­mated that a 24-hour ser­vice could be pi­loted in Glas­gow for less than £100,000 a year. If it proves suc­cess­ful, the scheme could then be rolled out na­tion­wide.

Deputy Chief Liv­ing­stone said: “Rape and sex­ual crimes are chal­leng­ing and ex­tremely vile of­fences, and we think we should – and we will – im­prove our re­sponses to them.

“We are go­ing to cre­ate a na­tional rape task­force,” the se­nior of­fi­cer said. It will have a cen­tralised unit to over­see and di­rect stan­dards, and iden­tify best prac­tice, while also link­ing in with sup­port groups, such as foren­sics.

“And we will also have 14 di­vi­sional, ded­i­cated rape in­ves­ti­ga­tion teams.”

The rape teams are based partly on the suc­cess­ful Op­er­a­tion Fed­eral, which was launched in West Loth­ian fol­low­ing an in­crease in crimes and saw a spe­cial­ist team of five of­fi­cers in­ves­ti­gate all sex­ual crimes in the area.

An ad­vo­cate for vic­tims has been tri­alled in domestic abuse courts.

“In terms of vic­tim care and pub­lic con­fi­dence, that [Op­er­a­tion Fed­eral] has had a big im­pact. We want to build on that, so we have a na­tional ap­proach to in­ves­ti­gat­ing rape,” Mr Liv­ing­stone said.

Con­sta­ble

“We’ve got a long way to go, but th­ese are ma­jor steps” DCC Iain Liv­ing­stone

Iain

“We feel hav­ing ded­i­cated teams will im­prove pub­lic con­fi­dence,” he went on. “And we are learn­ing from domestic abuse courts, in terms of hav­ing an ad­vo­cacy ser­vice.

“That’s in the early stages of devel­op­ment, but it would be part of our ap­proach.

“This will be the start of that process to put vic­tims at the heart and make sure in­ves­tiga­tive tech­niques are ro­bust and thor­ough.

“We’ve got a long way to go to get it right, but th­ese are ma­jor steps along the way.”

Talks be­tween po­lice Scot­tish Government cials are ex­pected to take shortly.

“That’s a pro­posal in the early stages at the moment, based on ex­pe­ri­ence in domestic abuse courts and best prac­tice that ex­ists there,” Mr Liv­ing­stone said.

“We hope to be en­ter­ing into dis­cus­sions with the Scot­tish Government to get fund­ing.”

Rape Cri­sis Scot­land has wel­comed the pro­pos­als.

Sandy Brind­ley, its na­tional co-or­di­na­tor, said: “It’s a very and of­fi­place ex­cit­ing pro­posal, which make a big dif­fer­ence.

“It makes sense that if you sup­port the com­plainer, you will get bet­ter ev­i­dence and less chance that they will drop out of the process. “It’s still the case that many S c o t S m a n c o m m e n t It is to be hoped min­is­ters will see the value of this ini­tia­tive and will re­gard this area as a pri­or­ity when it comes to new bud­get rounds.

could women, and men, don’t report. The more you can do to in­crease con­fi­dence of a sym­pa­thetic re­sponse, the bet­ter, and this ad­vo­cacy pi­lot will help.”

De­spite recorded crime fall­ing to a 37-year low, rape and at­tempted rape rose sharply in an­nual fig­ures re­leased last year.

In 2011-12, there were 1,274 cases of rape and at­tempted rape recorded by po­lice, up 13 per cent from 1,131 the pre­vi­ous year. Of those 1,274 cases, only 24 were of­fences against men.

This rise in re­ported cases was partly due to the in­tro­duc­tion of the Sex­ual Of­fences (Scot­land) Act, which came into force in De­cem­ber 2010.

The Scot­tish Government says it is con­tin­u­ing to con­sider changes that would make it eas­ier to pros­e­cute sex­ual crimes.

A spokesman said: “The Scot­tish Government will con­tinue to work with part­ners to im­prove the sup­port avail­able for all vic­tims of crime.

“Our plans to abol­ish the re­quire­ment for cor­rob­o­ra­tion will help re­move a bar­rier to pros­e­cut­ing crimes like rape and domestic abuse.

“In 2013, we will bring for­ward the Vic­tims and Wit­nesses Bill, which will in­clude a num­ber of mea­sures to im­prove sup­port to vic­tims, in­clud­ing sup­port for vul­ner­a­ble wit­nesses to give ev­i­dence, set­ting clear stan­dards of ser­vice for pub­lic agen­cies and in­creas­ing ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion about cases.”

Pic­ture: Afp/getty im­ages

Scot­land’s poor record in tack­ling sex­ual crimes has led to protests. Vic­tims can some­times feel as if they are the ones on trial

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