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Rape victims don't feel justice served, study finds

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Rape victims don't feel justice served, study finds

Victims of sexual assault and rape in Scotland don’t feel like justice has been achieved, even when their attackers are convicted, new research has found.

Researchers from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) interviewed 17 victims to identify common issues in the criminal justice experience, none of whom said that they felt justice had been achieved in their cases.

Various issues were highlighted through the research, including the lengthy duration of the process, administrative errors and poor communication from the police and courts.

Other concerns were raised about the potentially distressing conditions under which evidence and testimony is taken.

Of the 17 people interviewed, none felt that justice had been achieved, even when their cases had resulted in a guilty verdict.  

The report concludes that “overall, the findings suggest there is a considerable gap between how victim-survivors anticipate their case will be treated and the reality of the criminal justice process.”

Of the experience of giving evidence in court, one of those interviewed, Pippa said: “…when I say you’ve been raped before, it feels the exact same way when you’re sitting in that courtroom, you have nothing, like you literally are stripped bare of everything and don’t have any control over it.

“You have not had any say in this, all you have told them is like your story and they just go and do what they want with it” she added.

Another interviewee highlighted the positive support received from a volunteer advocacy worker.

Beth said: “I don’t know if I could have had the courage to say what I did without, because she gave me courage. Because I knew someone had my back.”

The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government and was conducted by the SCCJR, a collaborative project between four Scottish universities looking into ways the criminal justice system could be improved.

Justice Minister Humza Yousaf said: “These frank, first-hand accounts made a valuable contribution to our discussions and I thank all the survivors for their courage in coming forward to tell their story and participate in this project.

“We will carefully consider the findings and work with justice partners, victims organisations and researchers, such as SCCJR, to make a lasting difference. It is important that improvements made to the justice system are informed by a sound evidence base and that we prioritise actions which will make the most difference to survivors.

“Whilst we are certainly not there yet, progress is being made on enhancing the rights and support available to victims. We have provided £1 million funding for new facilities in Glasgow for vulnerable witnesses to give their evidence in a safe and trauma-informed environment and the ongoing judicially led review of sexual offences cases will assess potential for further improvements to court and judicial processes.

“The Scottish Government continues to work closely with Rape Crisis Scotland and fully supports the National Advocacy Project which helps survivors to engage with the justice system – assisting them throughout this difficult process.

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