The recent conviction of a British teenager in Cyprus has highlighted the vulnerable position a victim faces, after the incredible trauma they have already endured. The young woman in question was convicted in December 2019 after recanting a claim that she had been gang raped while on holiday. She now alleges that the Cypriot police made her falsely confess to lying about the crime committed. As a result, she received a suspended sentence, and she was allowed to leave Cyprus and return back to the UK. From the safety of her own home, she has now appealed the conviction on the basis that she was forced to change her account under pressure from the Cypriot police following hours of questioning without any legal representation. The story has left Cypriot Police and Government being accused of misogyny and archaic attitudes.
For Scotland, the policies on rape are not without their own serious criticisms. This blog will look at two of the criticisms in Scotland and the campaigns that are ensuring that those who need support the most are not forgotten.
Psychological – a continuation of trauma
The manner in which women and men are treated by the justice system when they report a rape or sexual assault is considered to be old-fashioned with attitudes insensitive towards the complainer. From the beginning right through to trial, complainers have described the continuing trauma of how they are treated which ends up in them losing faith in the system.
In reality, rape investigations are long and traumatic in themselves, with no real guarantee of justice. Victims find themselves having to jump through hoops to fit with procedure and are left feeling as though the system has been created against them, with little support for victims in place.
Rape Crisis Scotland, has identified through their own investigations that rape trials are regularly delayed, which puts a complainer in a state of continually having to prepare themselves emotionally for the day in question, when it finally occurs. They steady themselves to sometimes face the accused, share corridors with the accused’s family in some cases, to be told at the last moment that the case will not be heard that particular day. Their medical history is openly and extensively examined to include the most intimate aspects of their lives and then is subject to scrutiny. It is a continuation of the rape for some victims and it becomes less surprising that Scotland has the lowest conviction rate for rape out of all crimes.
This is a unique aspect of Scottish law where a case can only proceed when there are two independent separate sources for every piece of evidence before someone can be convicted. It is the most commonly cited reason for an investigation to fall apart. For example an admission of guilt from the accused is insufficient evidence to convict someone in Scotland because it needs another piece of evidence to corroborate it with. To report a crime to the police takes an incredible level of courage, and it can be devastating to be told that a case cannot proceed because of a lack of corroboration.
There have been new calls by Government Ministers to introduce a “Victim’s law” in Scotland, to help ease some of the burdens that a complainer faces when they proceed with a case.
Blog by Stephanie Spencer