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Improving the management of sexual offence cases 28/03/2019 A judicially led review group will take a fresh look at how sexual offences cases are conducted by courts, says the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service

Improving the management of sexual offence cases

A judicially led review group will take a fresh look at how sexual offences cases are conducted by courts, says the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. The group will ask the question is there a better way these cases can be dealt with to improve the experiences of all the participants in the interest of justice?

The review group, chaired by Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, comprises members of the judiciary and representatives of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, Police Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, justice agencies and third sector organisations including Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and Victim Support Scotland.

The group will consider what distinguishes sexual assault cases from other criminal cases and how court process and the experiences of complainers and witnesses can be improved without compromising the rights of an accused. The review will include potential changes to Court and judicial structures, skills development and procedure and practices.

It will not include a review of sexual offence sentencing. The Scottish Sentencing Council recently announced its intention to develop sentencing guidelines in relation to sexual offences.

“This is an opportunity for all the organisations involved in this review group to consider an overview of sexual offences prosecuted in our courts and recommend an improved approach for all participants,” said Lady Dorrian. “Our work will begin in April and we expect to be in a position to report in early 2020.”

The number and complexity of sexual offence cases which come to court has significantly increased and this growth is expected to continue. The vast majority of High Court trials now relate to sexual offences and a significant volume of sexual assault cases are tried under solemn procedure in the sheriff courts.

The Lord President, Lord Carloway, commissioned this review to develop proposals for an improved system to deal with all sexual offence cases following discussions with the Lord Advocate and the Cabinet Secretary. Lord Carloway considers that the current system needs to change to ensure sexual offence cases are managed under a modern process with an improved experience for complainers.

The group’s remit will have regard to the ongoing work in relation to the evidence of children and vulnerable witnesses; the increased use of evidence on commission; and the work of the Scottish Government’s Victims Task Force.
 

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