Jan 182011

Prosecutors have abandoned more than 1,000 sex-crime charges in the north and north-east of Scotland in recent years new figures have revealed

Fiscals in Grampian and the Highlands and islands have dropped proceedings for 1,030 sex charges, including rape, since 2005, before a sheriff or jury has had the chance to rule on them.

Of these, 644 were referred to prosecutors by police but then not taken further, according to statistics released under freedom of information legislation.

As well as rape charges, the figures also include allegations of sexual assaults, underage sex and lewd and libidinous behaviour.

Rape Crisis Scotland said last night that the number of abandoned cases was “a matter of real concern”.

Richard Baker, Labour justice spokesman and north-east MSP, described the number as “alarmingly high”.

“The concern must be that there are victims of these crimes that are not seeing the offenders being properly punished,” he said.

“For these charges to have been brought forward in the first place there would have been a great deal of work done, and brave victims would have had to come forward to report them.

“We cannot assume every charge will be proven in court if they got that far, but with the sheer quantity of these dropped charges it is difficult to comprehend that each and every one was invalid or was not a truthful allegation.”

Mr Baker added that he hoped the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act, introduced on December 1, would bring more cases to court.

The new law includes the first definition of consent to sex and protective measures to safeguard those with limited or no capacity to consent due to their young age or mental disorder.

A spokeswoman for Rape Crisis Scotland said: “It takes a huge amount of courage to report a sexual offence such as rape, and it can be devastating to find out your case is not getting to court.

“What we know from Scottish figures is the vast majority of reported rapes do not make it to court, and that is backed up by these figures.”

Tory MSP Bill Aitken, the party’s justice spokesman, said: “I find it surprising that so many police reports do not result in prosecution, but the Crown must be satisfied that the case is sufficiently robust before they take it to court.

“Perhaps some additional police training may be necessary.”

The Crown Office said the latest figures showed that 80% of people prosecuted for crimes of indecency are convicted, and that convictions for lewd behaviour rose by 34% last year.

“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service takes all crimes of violence, rape and other sexual crimes extremely seriously,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are committed to ensuring that all such cases are investigated thoroughly, sensitively and prosecuted appropriately, where there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence and it is in the public interest.”

She said fiscals have a duty to consider each case on its specific facts, including whether there is enough evidence to prove the charge, the attitude of the victim and whether a prosecution would be in the public interest.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Sexual Offences Act, which came into effect earlier this month, improves public safety and helps the victims of sexual crimes by bringing clarity and increased certainty to prosecutions. But the act is simply one part of a wider package of measures that government is taking forward to improve public safety and help victims.”

 Posted by at 2:16 pm

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