Date lodged: 19 March 2018
To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the findings in Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2016-17, which record that, of the 1,878 reported rapes and attempted rates in 2016-17, 251 were prosecuted and 98 resulted in a conviction.
Answered by: Michael Matheson 16 April 2018
It is important to note that there is no direct relationship between the number of crimes recorded by the police and the number of follow-up actions taken by other agencies within the criminal justice system and therefore care should be taken when comparing recorded crime and criminal proceedings statistics.
For example, recorded crime statistics count crimes at the time that they come to the attention of Police Scotland, while criminal proceedings statistics report on cases which have concluded in court. This means that a crime may be recorded in one year and court proceedings concluded in a subsequent year. Furthermore, a person may be proceeded against for more than one crime involving more than one victim, meaning that a single conviction could be for several crimes. It is also possible that crimes recorded by the police may be altered in the course of judicial proceedings, for example, where a crime recorded by the police as rape results in a conviction for sexual assault.
However, we recognise that the number of people convicted for rape represents only a fraction of the number of alleged rapes reported to the police.
In November 2017, the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland published its Thematic Review of the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Crimes which considered 643 cases where an accused appeared in court on a charge of a sexual crime and the case was identified as a potential High Court case (this would include, but would not be limited to, cases of rape and attempted rape). It found that around a third of these cases were discontinued and that the most common reasons were insufficient admissible evidence, disengagement of the victim and that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.
We fully support the police, prosecutors and courts in holding perpetrators of sexual offences to account. We have modernised and strengthened the law around sexual crime through the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009, introducing a statutory definition of consent as "free agreement". And the introduction of statutory jury directions in certain sexual offence cases including for rape are designed to minimise the likelihood of any pre-conceived ideas jurors may have about how people react both during and in the aftermath of being sexually assaulted do not influence how jurors consider evidence in a specific case.
Police Scotland operate the National Rape Task Force using specially trained officers in 14 locally based Rape Investigation Units and the Crown Office operates the National Sexual Crime Unit. All cases of rape are tried in the High Court and presided over by Scotland's most senior and experienced judges.