Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

New guidelines on rape inquiries

Distressed woman
A forensic approach will be taken in rape investigations

Rape cases are to be investigated more like murder inquiries under new guidelines published by Scotland's most senior law officer.

Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini said police and prosecutors would work closer together and take a forensic approach to cases.

Ms Angiolini said victims must have confidence the investigation would be thorough, professional and sensitive.

The guidelines were developed in consultation with police chiefs.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) said areas where police could improve included earlier consultation with prosecutors and better liaison with victims on the progress of cases.

Ms Angiolini described rape as "one of the most serious and distressing crimes we face as a society".

She said that when victims have the courage to report a rape, they must have absolute confidence in the investigation "from the outset".

"That is why, with this guidance to the police, we will now see an approach to rape investigation which is, from the outset, much closer in form to the approach which is taken in investigating a homicide," she said.

"Victims can now have increased confidence that police and prosecutors will be taking a forensic approach to gathering all available evidence, and analysing strengths and weaknesses in the case, in order to bring a compelling prosecution before the Court, wherever that is possible."

'Final stage'

The lord advocate said prosecutors had been making improvements to "every aspect" of the investigation and prosecution of rape and other sexual offences since the publication of the Sexual Offences Review.

"With this guidance, we are now in the final stage of implementation," she said.

Deputy Chief Constable Bill Skelly, from Acpos, welcomed the guidelines.

He said: "This is a benchmark we should aspire to during each and every investigation.

"This is particularly significant given the lasting and deep-rooted emotional and psychological impact which a sexual offence can have on a victim.

"We acknowledge the value of appropriate and adequate training for officers in this difficult area of policing.

"We are in the process of developing training and guidance to a national standard to ensure that not only are we meeting the requirements of the guidelines but that we are providing victims with a quality service."

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