Rape victims get help to meet their attackers in restorative justice reform
Justice Secretary Keith Brown announces new scheme
Victims of rape and other sexual offences are to have the option to formally meet their attackers in a new restorative justice scheme.
A "safe, trauma informed service" will offer face-to-face meetings with convicted perpetrators through a specialist Thriving Survivors hub to be set up by the Scottish Government.
The process allows voluntary meetings between victims and perpetrators and can also take the form of facilitated letter writing. Offenders must acknowledge the harm caused and take responsibility in order to proceed.
While there has been limited use of restorative justice in Scotland, this has not been available country-wide and has predominantly been used for low-level youth offences.
Justice Secretary Keith Brown says an expansion of provision for this and other offending will "put victims at the heart of the justice system and bring huge benefits for years to come".
The new development will cover sexual offending for the first time, with strategic oversight provided through a central National Hub within Community Justice Scotland. This will also manage delivery of an initial test project covering Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders before services are developed in other regions.
More than £725,000 has so far been invested. Brown said: "It is crucial the service provided is safe, consistent and of a high standard nationally, and fundamentally it is vital to remember this is voluntary and must have the needs of the person who has been harmed [as] central to the process.
"It is not a substitute or alternative to the criminal justice system but a means of putting victims first in a way that I am sure will be of benefit to a number of people for years to come."
Ashley Scotland, chief executive of Thriving Survivors, said: “Research shows there’s a real demand from survivors of sexual abuse for restorative justice to be available in Scotland in a safely managed way. It’s very much an individual decision, but it can empower survivors of harm to take back power, choice and control in their lives and can help their recovery.”