Sexual offence cases review by Scottish courts

image source, Scottish Court Service
image captionThe aim is to improve court processes can be improved, without compromising the rights of the accused

The way Scotland's courts deal with rape and other sexual offences cases is to be reviewed.

Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, the country's second most senior judge, will lead the review which is due to be finished by early next year.

It is hoped the move will improve the way cases are handled for complainers and witnesses.

The move comes amid an increase in the volume and complexity of sexual offences cases coming to court.

The review group will look consider what distinguishes sexual assault cases from other criminal cases, and how court process can be improved without compromising the rights of an accused.

Changes to court and judicial procedures are possible outcomes of the review.

image captionThe review group, led by Lady Dorrian, will start work next month and report by early next year.

The groups in the review panel include Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women's Aid, Victim Support Scotland and the Crown Office.

Lady Dorrian said: "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."

'System needs to change'

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) said the "number and complexity of sexual offence cases which come to court has significantly increased and this growth is expected to continue".

A statement from the SCTS said the Lord President Lord Carloway, who commissioned the review, believes the current system needs to change to "ensure sexual offence cases are managed under a modern process with an improved experience for complainers".

A bill which would allow the use of more pre-recorded evidence in court trials is going through Holyrood.

The courts review will also consider the work of the Scottish government's victims task force, which aims to improve support, advice and information for victims of crime.