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Dorrian to chair sex offence trials review group

21 March 2019

Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, is to chair a review group that will seek improvements in the way trials of sexual offence cases are conducted in Scottish courts.

The group will address the question of whether there is a better way to deal with such cases in order to improve the experiences of all the participants in the interest of justice.

The review has been commisssioned by the Lord Justice General, Lord Carloway, following discussions with the Lord Advocate and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, as the number and complexity of sexual offence cases continues to grow significantly. The vast majority of High Court trials now relate to sexual offences, and large number of sexual assault cases are also tried under solemn procedure in the sheriff courts. 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.

Members of the group will include judges, representatives of the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service, Police Scotland, Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, justice agencies and third sector organisations including Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and Victim Support Scotland.

They 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 also 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. It will not look at sentencing, which is to be considered separately by the Scottish Sentencing Council.

Lady Dorrian commented: “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. Our work will begin in April and we expect to be in a position to report in early 2020.”

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