Sunday 18, March

Rape victim policy change criticised

A new policy which could compel reluctant rape victims to give evidence has been criticised by a charity.

"One of the key reassurances that we are currently able to give people is that if they don't feel able to proceed, that their wishes will be respected, but this will be gone.

"One of the key challenges is the lack on control that they have over proceedings and this will make that worse."

'Hold perpetrators to account'

The Crown Office said it had to consider the risk and safety implications for other members of the public. It said the new guidance represented a rebalancing of policy.

A spokesman said the change was "the subject of consultation with stakeholder organisations before it was finalised".

He added: "Public prosecutors have a duty to act in the public interest and, at all times, take decisions with that in mind. These decisions involve a careful assessment of all the relevant circumstances applicable to the particular case.

"Where they can do so, prosecutors have a responsibility to hold the perpetrators of serious sexual offences to account, and to seek to protect the public from dangerous offenders.

"In sexual offence cases, the attitude of the complainer will always be a very significant factor in making decisions on prosecution and may often justify not proceeding further with the case.

"However, circumstances vary greatly and it would not be appropriate to lay down a rule that proceedings can never be taken if the complainer is reluctant.

"The new guidance will make sure that if the complainer is reluctant, the reasons for this will be fully explored and all reasonable steps taken to re-engage the complainer before a decision is taken about the case."


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