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JUSTICE calls for reforms in prosecuting sexual offences
Improvements to the way sexual offences are prosecuted in Scotland and across the UK have been put forward by JUSTICE, the law reform and human rights group, in a report published today.
Prosecuting Sexual Offences, by a JUSTICE working party, calls for more sexual assault referral centres to be created in Scotland, and much greater use of intermediaries to help witnesses and accused to provide their best evidence.
In addition, JUSTICE wants to see more training for practitioners to increase the use of evidence by commission, and the quality of commissions to be more consistent; more vulnerable witness-friendly suites in different parts of the country, to cut journey times and increase capacity; and priority given to developing an accredited treatment programme for those who have committed sexual offences.
The working party included a Scottish sub-group, chaired by Sheriff Nigel Morrison QC, with representatives from the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland, the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland and academics.
The report states that while there are some features of the Scottish system from which England & Wales could usefully learn, "what underscores our concerns [in Scotland] is the lack of a national strategy for addressing the rise in sexual offence allegations. Individual organisations, such as the police and the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) have developed their own, separate strategies. Joining up these strategies, together with government efforts on education and prevention will produce a more coherent and effective response to sexual offence allegations".
Shelagh McCall QC, chair of JUSTICE Scotland, commented: "This working party report is very timely. The increased burden on all parts of the criminal justice system by greater reporting and detection of sexual offences has to be addressed.
"In Scotland, we make recommendations that aim to assist investigators and those reporting offences, helping vulnerable witnesses give best evidence, and to reduce reoffending.
"The report fits well with work already being done by a number of agencies and members of the legal profession to improve the way in which we deal with sexual offending."
Click here to view the full report.