£1.1 million extra to reduce delays in sexual offences cases and improve communication with victims.
Scotland's prosecutors and courts are to get extra funding to respond to the growth in sexual offence reports and reduce the time such cases take to progress through the justice system.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) will use the extra £1.1 million funding to deal with the additional caseload, work to reduce the time which cases take to come to court, and to improve information provided to complainers.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said:
"Many victims of sexual offences are understandably anxious about the criminal justice process and there is a risk that without appropriate support and reassurance the prosecution process can compound their trauma. That is why we are providing this extra funding to help ensure cases reach court as quickly as possible and to improve communication with victims.
"Despite the recent increase in sexual offence reports we know that such crimes continue to be under-reported. This additional funding is just one of the actions we have put in place to help give victims confidence to report crimes by ensuring they are offered support at each step of the process."
Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said:
"The additional funding which the Justice Secretary has announced responds to the current and projected growth in reports of sexual crime, and the changing profile and complexity of these cases."
"It will be directed to reducing the time before court proceedings commence, and to improving the provision of information to complainers."
"This reflects the Crown's commitment to improving the experience of victims of sexual crime in the criminal justice system; and to the effective and rigorous prosecution of sexual offences."
Chief Executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service Eric McQueen said:
"With the increasing level of sexual offending cases proceeding to trial, the additional £0.3m for the SCTS will allow trials to start at the earliest opportunity and minimise the need for trials to be moved to other court locations, where it is not in the best interest of the complainer or witnesses."
Supporting victims and witnesses through Scotland's justice system.
Rape and attempted rape accounted for 17% of sexual crimes in 2016-17. There were 1,878 recorded incidents of rape - a 4% increase from 1,809 in 2015-16. There has been a upward trend in the reports of these crimes since 2010-11. Much of this increase in reporting relates to historical reporting of offences and there may also be higher levels of reporting due to increased confidence in the ability of justice partners in dealing with such cases.
Between 2015-18 the Scottish Government provided an additional £1.85m to Rape Crisis Scotland to place an advocacy worker in every centre in Scotland. £1.7m funding was announced in February 2018 to continue the project and enable additional advocacy workers in areas with most need. £800,000 of Equalities funding is also shared between the 16 local rape crisis centres across Scotland.
In May the Scottish Government announced funding to the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research to understand better the experience of victims of rape and sexual assault in the justice system.
The Chief Medical Officer's Taskforce is working to ensure delivery of the new national standards for forensic medical examinations for victims of sexual offences, with Scottish Government investment of up to £2 million to improve facilities for examinations.
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