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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Rape procedures overhaul outlined
Solicitor General Elish Angiolini
The reforms were outlined by the solicitor general
Significant changes have been proposed to the way rape cases in Scotland are investigated and prosecuted.

A major review of the way cases are handled made 50 recommendations, which have been accepted in full by the Lord Advocate, MSPs were told.

One of the reforms is likely to lead to more prosecutions.

MSPs were told decisions not to prosecute would only be taken in those cases where there was "no reasonable prospect" of a conviction.

Under another reform, prosecutors will have to undergo comprehensive training before being allowed to work in "this difficult and sensitive area".

Solicitor General Elish Angiolini, who outlined the reforms, also told MSPs that a softly-softly approach to rape victims may have backfired by failing to expose at an early stage flaws in a prosecution case.

Comprehensive training for prosecutors
A "presumption in favour" of prosecution - apart from cases with "insurmountable" weaknesses
Faster interviewing when there are "substantial" concerns about the quality of the evidence
Better communication between police and prosecutors
Formal feedback to police in cases where there is insufficient evidence

The review, led by a senior procurator fiscal, was set up by Ms Angiolini in 2004 to look at all aspects of rape cases, from the point where police submit their report through to prosecution and trial.

It was the result of public concerns at the way rape and sex offences were handled by the criminal justice system and from a recognition by prosecutors of the particular problems posed by rape cases, such as the question of consent.

Detailing the main reforms, Ms Angiolini told MSPs there would be a "presumption" in favour of prosecution where there was sufficient "credible and reliable" evidence to prosecute.

"Only where there are insurmountable weaknesses in the case, which mean that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction, should a decision be made to take no proceedings," she said.

Conviction rate

The solicitor general told MSPs that the reforms signalled "a profound change" in the approach to rape and serious sexual offence cases.

She acknowledged Scotland had the reputation of having one of the worse conviction rates for rape.

Ms Angiolini said: "A third of all cases of rape reported fall at the first hurdle, when reported to the procurator fiscal by the police.

"Of those cases, the overwhelming majority, approximately 80%, were marked 'not to proceed' by the procurator fiscal on the basis of insufficiency of evidence.

"We may not always be able to change the ultimate outcome of the analysis of evidence, but we must ensure that the investigation is as thorough and fair as it can be."

She said that all actions should be complete within three years.

See details of the proposals

Rape law change plan put forward
30 Jan 06 |  Scotland
Summit focuses on rape response
21 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Rape ruling leads to law review
03 Jun 04 |  Scotland
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

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