The conviction rate in rape trials has almost doubled in the year since new laws were brought in clarifying the definitions of rape and consent, figures released today reveal.
Since the enforcement of provisions of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 began in December of last year, 62 per cent of rape cases have ended in a conviction. 69 per cent of sexual assault cases have also been successful over that period.
The statistics were revealed by Lord Advocate for Scotland Frank Mulholland, in a speech to the annual Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Sexual Offences conference.
Mulholland said: “The new Sexual Offences Act brought about significant changes in the prosecution of sexual crime in Scotland. Previously Scotland had one of the narrowest definitions of rape in the world. The Act has broadened this substantially, making it no longer a gender-specific crime and providing a statutory definition of consent,” Mulholland said.
“The first internal statistics kept by NSCU under this new act are encouraging to date.
“There have been 13 concluded prosecutions for cases with a charge of rape under S1 of the 2009 Act. The conviction rate is 62%. Overall, for sexual offences there has been a conviction rate of 69% under the 2009 Act.
“Victims, and the public at large, should be confident that we have the skills and expertise to deal with this challenging and demanding area of work.”
In December 2010, Rape Crisis Scotland reported that 33 per cent of trials for rape ended in a successful conviction.
The figures announced today only relate to rape cases that go to trial. Last year, the number of successful convictions for rape as a proportion of reports made to the police was just three per cent.
Labour shadow justice spokeswoman, Johann Lamont MSP welcomed the figures, but sounded a note of caution in calling for further legal reforms.
“These are encouraging figures that suggest we are moving in the right direction, but it is important to remember that only a fraction of rape cases reported to police actually make it to trial,” Lamont said.
“Rape is a horrific crime which can take a lot of courage to report to police, and for a victim to find out their case is not going to court can be devastating.
“With the rape conviction rate in Scotland still lower than other European countries, it is clear we still have some way to go to ensure those guilty are brought to justice.
Lamont added that ending the requirement for corroboration of evidence – a key distinctiveness of Scots law that Lord Carloway recommended should be abolished in his recent review of the Scottish legal system – would further improve conviction rates.
“We believe there is a strong case for the removal of corroboration in cases of rape and serious sexual assault, with research suggesting far more sexual offences cases could proceed to trial,” she said.