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Last Updated: Monday, 21 February, 2005, 09:57 GMT
Summit focuses on rape response
Distressed woman
Some rape victims do not contact the police
Scotland's solicitor general and prosecutors from across the UK have gathered to discuss how to improve the investigation of rape cases.

Elish Angiolini QC and Harriet Harman, Solicitor General for England and Wales, met in Edinburgh for the first event of its kind in the UK.

A review of the way Scotland's prosecutors deal with rape and sexual assault cases is under way.

Ms Angiolini said rape victims needed to have confidence in the legal system.

The event also brought together lawyers from the Crown Office, the Procurator Fiscal Service and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Elish Angiolini QC
Victims of rape and sexual offences need to have confidence that they will be treated with respect and dignity at every point in the process
Elish Angiolini QC

Ms Angiolini said she and Mrs Harman had important roles in ensuring victims were treated with respect and dignity.

She said: "As solicitor general for our respective jurisdictions, we share a common commitment - to continually improve the standards of investigation and prosecution, as well as the victims' experience of the prosecution service.

"Victims of rape and sexual offences in particular need to have confidence not only that their cases will be handled efficiently and effectively, in the public interest, but also that they will be treated with respect and dignity at every point in the process."

Ms Angiolini said a forum involving prosecutors from Scotland, England and Wales was being established with the aim of improving the experience of victims across both jurisdictions.

"This is the first event of its kind, but it won't be the last," she added.

Mrs Harman said it was important to reach out to rape victims who did not report the crime.

Callous crime

"Whether committed by a stranger or a friend, work colleague or partner, rape is a callous, brutal attack which leaves the victim - and very often those around the victim such as family and friends - profoundly affected," she said.

"Rape is still less likely to be reported, less likely to result in a charge, and less likely to be prosecuted than other serious crimes.

"That's why our discussions today are so important. We are in different jurisdictions, but we have the same commitment to take rape allegations seriously and encourage victims to come forward and get the support they need.

"By sharing our information and experience, learning from each other, we can continue to improve our response and ensure we meet victims' needs."

The Scottish Law Commission is currently looking at definitions of such crimes, including male rape and the levels of proof required.

First Minister Jack McConnell said in June last year that the law needed to be clarified.

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