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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Rape ruling leads to law review
Court coat of arms
There are fears that the level of convictions will fall further
Rape law in Scotland is set to be overhauled after the first minister announced a review of sexual offences.

Jack McConnell said the Scottish Law Commission would look at definitions of such crimes, including male rape, and the levels of proof required.

Only 6% of rape complaints lead to a conviction in Scotland's courts.

There are fears that this figure will fall after a recent ruling that the prosecution must prove the accused was aware there was no consent.

However, Mr McConnell stressed that women should not be deterred from coming forward to report attacks.

It is very important that this review by the Scottish Law Commission covers all aspects of both definition and proof in relation to sexual offences and rape in particular
Jack McConnell
"I would not want any woman in Scotland to get a message here and now from the Scottish legal system or from this parliament that it would be inadvisable to report a rape or a sexual offence," he told MSPs.

"It is very important that we maximise the confidence that people have not just in our courts and in the sentences and the prosecutions which can be available, but also in the way the system will deal with those who report those offences.

"That is why the solicitor general has made such a priority of improving the way in which the system supports those who report those offences and who need support in order to appear in court and put forward their case."

Judge's ruling

In Scots law, rape means sexual intercourse with a woman who does not consent.

However, a recent ruling by Lord Gill appears to have placed an obligation on the prosecution also to prove and corroborate that the accused knew the woman did not consent.

The law commission is being asked to consider:

  • The law and definition of rape and its proof
  • The common law and statutory provisions relating to sexual offences in general and proof of such offences with particular regard to gender and equality issues in statutory provisions and any anomalies or gaps.

Failure to consent must be corroborated, Lord Gill said
Mr McConnell told the Scottish Parliament that the time was right for a clarification of the law.

He said the Scottish Executive would consider legislation if the commission felt that was required.

The first minister said: "It is very important that this review by the Scottish Law Commission covers all aspects of both definition and proof in relation to sexual offences and rape in particular.

"I believe, therefore, that should include the specific issue of male-on-male rape which I think has been a concern to many members in this chamber and many people in Scotland."

Mr McConnell made the announcement in reply to a question by the Scottish National Party's Alex Neil.

The Central Scotland MSP welcomed the move, saying: "People have suffered a lack of confidence in the system for too long and I now urge that this promised review starts immediately so that we can get it sorted."

Date rape awareness drive
14 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Ministers may consider rape law
31 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Trauma of reporting rape
18 Jul 03  |  UK
New rape law 'will protect victims'
01 Nov 02  |  Scotland

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