15th August 2020

Researchers from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research have published a new paper detailing the impact delays to prosecutions of serious sexual crime during Covid-19 are having in Scotland.

It outlines the wide-ranging adverse consequences that come from extended delays on victim-survivors’ health and wellbeing.

The paper written by Professor Michele Burman and Dr Oona Brooks-Hay has been referenced by Rape Crisis Scotland on the day it publishes a legal opinion that states these delays may be ‘unlawful’.

Co-author of ‘Delays in Trials: the implications for victim-survivors of rape and serious sexual assault, Dr Oona Brooks-Hay said: “Delays in rape cases are not new; waiting times have been unacceptably lengthy for some time.

“The challenges faced by victim-survivors as a result of delays in their case progression, poor communication, the uncertainties about trial dates and last-minute changes to court locations are well-established and very problematic.

“Our research has shown that many develop mental and physical health problems including anxiety, night terrors, depression and suicidal thoughts because of these inordinate delays. Recovering from such a traumatic event is also delayed as access to therapeutic resources has to wait.”

Drawing upon an earlier research study with victim-survivors in Scotland, Justice Journeys, the paper highlights significant issues around access to justice and the right of complainers to have their trial heard within a reasonable time.

Dr Brooks-Hay also raised concerns around how delays would impact those wishing to report serious sexual crimes.

“For many victim-survivors the knowledge that a case is unlikely to come to an end for years may act as a real disincentive to report in the first place, effectively undoing all of the work undertaken by the Government and Police Scotland to encourage victims to come forward”, she said.

Authors of the paper are supporting calls from Rape Crisis Scotland for the Scottish Government to legislate for judge led trials to be used in the short term to alleviate the untenable backlog. Not doing so – they say – would be ignoring the rights of victims and that would be unacceptable.

You can read Delays in Trials: the implications for victim-survivors of rape and serious sexual assault on the SCCJR website.

If you have been raped or sexually abused you can find support and information on Rape Crisis Scotland’s website https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/help-introduction/


Media Contact:
Rachelle Cobain, Communications Officer, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research.

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