Kezia Dugdale has urged the First Minister to intervene after new procedures were unveiled which could ‘compel’ rape survivors to give evidence.
The move by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has been labelled a ‘step backwards’ by Rape Crisis Scotland, which has warned of ‘significant, lasting negative implications’.
The issue relates to ‘reluctant complainers’, as they are called by the Crown, when people who report they were raped or sexually assaulted later decide to withdraw from the process.
Rape Crisis Scotland has said many victims withdraw because they cannot cope with the experience of the justice system. It fears that if women are compelled to give evidence, and even face the prospect of having a warrant issued for their arrest, they are more likely to falsely claim they made up their report.
Speaking after raising the issue during First Minister’s Questions, Kezia Dugdale said:
“These new procedures are alarming, and it is deeply concerning that rape survivors could be compelled to give evidence.
“Far too many victims of sexual violence do not get the justice they deserve and I want prosecutions to increase, but this could put women off from coming forward in the first place and therefore have the opposite effect.
“It risks causing considerable distress for vulnerable women who should be in control of their contribution to the justice process.
“This is not just a matter for the Crown when the government has a commitment to increase rape convictions, and I therefore hope the First Minister will listen very closely to the grave concerns that have been raised.”
The new COPFS policy can be read here: https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/resources/Letter-from-COPFS.pdf
Rape Crisis Scotland’s response can be read here: https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/news/news/a-letter-to-the-crown-office-and-procurator-fiscal-service/