The Lord President, Lord Carloway, has commissioned a review of how Scottish courts conduct rape and other sexual offence cases. Lord Carloway hopes to develop proposals on how to improve the way cases are handled for complainers and witnesses, without compromising the rights of the accused.
Chaired by Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, the review panel will include representatives from organisations such as Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and Victim Support Scotland. It will also be comprised of members of the judiciary and representatives of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland and the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS).
Lady Dorrian believes the review “is an opportunity for all the organisations involved to consider an overview of sexual offences prosecuted in our courts and recommend an improved approach for all participants."
The panel will seek to make the trial process less traumatic for victims of sexual offences with changes to court and judicial structures possible outcomes. Lord Carloway believes the current system must change to "ensure sexual offence cases are managed under a modern process with an improved experience for complainers".
The SCTS said the "number and complexity of sexual offence cases which come to court has significantly increased and this growth is expected to continue". It has been reported that the vast majority of trials in the High Court now relate to sexual offences and a significant volume of sexual assault cases are being tried in the sheriff court.
A bill which would allow the use of more evidence recorded in advance of court trials is currently going through Holyrood.
According to Lady Dorrian, the review work will begin in April and a report on the findings will be expected in early 2020.
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