A leading charity representing rape victims has attacked the Evening Times newspaper for printing a “fabricated” account of a rape trial in which it suggested a victim of an alleged rape had been forced to hold up her pants in court.
Rape Crisis Scotland also said that the retraction printed today by the merely “perpetuated the myth that women can’t be trusted when they speak out about being raped.”
On 7 October, after the matter was raised by deputy Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont MSP at First Minister’s Questions, the Crown office released a statement in which it said the story was “unsubstantiated”.
“Editors may we aware of recent reporting of a case which allegedly went to trial involving the rape of a 21-year-old female in Glasgow, whereby the complainer was allegedly forced to hold up her underwear in court, and subsequently attempted to commit suicide.
“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) was not approached for comment on any of the reporting on this story or by any other commentators on the case.
“At this stage in our investigations it would appear that the original story is unsubstantiated. We have been unable to confirm with the journalist which case this report relates to and accordingly while it is impossible for us to comment until the case has been identified, we can confirm that we have been unable to identify any rape trial for an attack which occurred in Glasgow which resulted in acquittal this year and which matches the details as reported.
“Should it be the case that this story has no substance it is clearly a matter of serious concern as to what the impact of this might be for those who are the victims of such crimes, but might now be discouraged from reporting such crimes as a result of what they have read in this story. We are always happy to assist the media in confirming details of trials which have taken place,” the statement said.
Sandy Brindley, National Coordinator for Rape Crisis Scotland, condemned the newspaper’s actions, and said the retraction printed today was itself a cause for concern.
“The difficulties rape survivors can face giving evidence in court are well documented, but there have been significant improvements in recent years,” Brindley said.
“It is very regrettable to see a fabricated account of a rape trial being printed. Our main concern is that the story has not deterred anyone who has experienced rape or sexual abuse from reporting to the police.
“Just as damaging, however, in our opinion as the actual story is the wording of the retraction printed by the Evening Times. Unfortunately, despite years of awareness raising efforts by organisations like ours, many people still believe that women routinely lie about being raped.
“However this story came about – and its origins are very unclear – the Evening Times has perpetuated the myth that women can’t be trusted when they speak out about being raped. That’s the last thing anyone interested in justice for rape survivors needs.”
The Evening Times printed the following retraction today on page two of the newspaper, which is distributed daily in Glasgow: “On Wednesday, October 5, the Evening Times published a report outlining the account of a woman’s ordeal in court in which she claimed she had been raped.
“This story was subsequently highlighted in Holyrood at First Minister’s Questions.
“Regrettably, the story was not subjected to the normal scrutiny or checks it should have received before publication in the Evening Times and we are unable to confirm details of the case.
“The Crown Office has informed us that it has been unable to identify any rape trial for an attack in Glasgow which resulted in acquittal this year and which matches the details as reported.
“The reporting of such cases is highly sensitive and we deeply regret any hurt or offence our reporting may have caused.”