Date lodged: 3 May 2018
To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to reduce (a) the length of time that it takes rape trials to get to court and (b) delays during the court process involving rape trials.
Answered by: Alison Di Rollo 17 May 2018
The management of prosecutions, including rape, is a matter for Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) while the management of court business is a matter for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.
Serious sexual offences, principally rape, now account for around 75% of all High Court trials. In recent years there has been a significant and sustained increase in the number of sexual crimes reported to COPFS, with an unprecedented increase of 42% in the number of cases in which criminal proceedings were commenced in the last year alone.
Against that background, COPFS has reorganised the way its specialist prosecutors work in order to speed up case preparation and reduce the time which it takes to bring cases to trial. Particular efforts have been made to address the pre-petition workload which contributes to the journey time from report to trial, as a result of which COPFS has reduced the number of such cases from 700 in 2016 to approximately 200 today.
The Scottish Government is committed to finding ways to improve the criminal justice system as it affects all victims, and especially victims of sexual crime. Delays in the court process can contribute to stress, anxiety and reluctance on the part of witnesses. In this regard the Lord Advocate has accepted all of the recommendations made by the Inspector of Prosecutions in her recent report, and the Law Officers and COPFS are working hard with colleagues across the system to improve the efficient administration of justice in this important area.