Sexual assault victims have been “retraumatised” by their dealings with the criminal justice system, according to Scotland’s second most senior judge.
A review into how Scotland’s justice system treats rape cases has made a series of recommendations, including the setting up of a specialist court to deal with all serious sexual offences.
The review, which also suggests cases could be heard by a single judge and without a jury, is being led by Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian as part of a shake-up of the Scottish court system.
Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Lady Dorrian said those conducting the review thought the system needed improving so victims found their experience of reporting rape “less traumatic”.
“Some of the accounts we had was that people felt retraumatised after their experience with the criminal justice system – we found that difficult to hear,” she said.
“Clearly that is not the intention and we had to listen to that and find a way of creating a system that doesn’t do that.”
The problem is not just limited to Scotland, as fewer than one in six female victims of sexual assault in England and Wales reported it to the police.
An estimated 16% of females aged 16 to 59 surveyed in the year to March 2020, who had been victims of sexual assault by rape or penetration since the age of 16, had reported it to the police, the Office for National Statistics said.
Discussions about women’s safety and the way sexual offences are treated have been brought up in the wake of Sarah Everard’s killing.
But Lady Dorrian said the issues with how cases are managed in the justice system has been going on for “many, many years”.
“We feel that to simply carry on doing things the way that we have always been doing them isn’t necessarily the best way forward,” she said.
Included in the review are suggestions that court staff be trained in dealing with trauma victims, that evidence from complainants is recorded as soon as possible by police officers, and that jurors be told about rape myths and stereotypes.
Caroline Nokes MP, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, told Sky News there are still “significant problems” with encouraging victims to come forward across the UK.
She said it was “crucial” that victims are supported through the justice system, adding there should be a “full and frank conversation about how we can do things better”.