Expert group on sexual offending

Catherine Dyer to head up group to prevent offending among young people.

Former Crown Office chief executive Catherine Dyer will head up an expert group on preventing sexual offending involving young people.  

The group, which brings together a range of interests including the Scottish Youth Parliament, Youth Link and Rape Crisis Scotland, will have its first meeting early next year.

Plans for an expert group were announced by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson following the publication of research on sexual crimes in September.

Mr Matheson said:

“Catherine brings a wealth of experience. Her leadership, and the collective expertise of the group, will help us put a stop to what is a growing area of concern among young people.

“Advances in technology are greatly beneficial for the way we all live our lives, but also present new risks for harm. We have responded through new laws criminalising the sharing of intimate images as well as strong public information campaigns.

“Prevention is key, with figures showing more must be done for young people now. In the last year, more than 80% of victims of online sexual crime were female, with an average age of 14, and 96% of perpetrators were male. We need to better understand why some young men are motivated to behave in this way, and how we can prevent it.”

Catherine Dyer, who has previously chaired a review of child protection systems in 2014, said: .

“Sharing understanding of the nature and causes of behaviours that affect children and young people in the digital age, and creating solutions to reduce the numbers of harmful incidents, is clearly a priority.

“We will work with a wide range of organisations to gain further insights into what young people are experiencing and explore what more needs to be done over coming years to make our young people safe from risk of harm or harming others.”

Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo QC said:

“Too many children and young people are coming into contact with our justice system as a result of sexual offending. This expert group will play a key role in exploring what more can be done to prevent these adverse childhood events by education, building on the excellent work that is already being done.

“I welcome the appointment of Catherine Dyer as the chair of the group. Catherine will bring a wealth of experience having served as the Crown Agent for COPFS for six years and having previously chaired the Scottish Government’s review of the child protection system.”


The Justice Secretary and Solicitor General announced plans to establish the group on 26 September following the findings from research Mr Matheson had commissioned last year into the rise in recorded sexual crime.

The group’s remit includes all sexual offending and harm, with a particular focus on cyber-enabled offending involving young people. It is expected to report in Spring 2019.

Planned membership includes representatives of the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland, Child Protection Committees Scotland, Police Scotland, Young Scot, Stop It Now!, Crown Office, Social Work Scotland, as well as expertise from the health sector and academia.

Two ‘sounding board’ events will be held, including parents, young people and others with a key interest and role.


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