Rape law concerns

Campaign groups have expressed concern over the “limitations” of new legislation which aims to strengthen the law on rape.

The groups, including Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and Victim Support Scotland, presented their worries about the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill to MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee.

The MSPs heard that although the groups generally welcome the new legislation, they had a number of concerns that provisions in the bill could, in certain circumstances, make it more difficult to prove rape.

They also called for action to stop a complainer’s personal history being brought up in trials. Sandy Brindlay, national co-ordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland reported that medical records, including mental health problems and use of anti-depressants, are increasingly used in court by the defence counsel.

She said: “We need to be clear about its limitations. It doesn’t look at evidence at all. The particular area we are concerned about is sexual history and character evidence.”

Although the bill defines “consent” for the first time in law, Brindlay also highlighted concerns over “advance consent”. The bill indicates that, even if the complainer is subsequently unable to with withhold consent because they are asleep or under the influence of drink or drugs, there may still be consent if it was agreed at an earlier stage.

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