Alison McInnes questions comments of rape trial judge

Last week, I read a blog post by legal expert Andrew Tickell which horrified me. That post, and the judgment of the Appeal Court to which it refers had me feeling sick and shaking, so be aware that it contains some horrible details of rape of adults and children  and the sexual abuse of a child before you click on it. The judgment was for an appeal by the prosecution in a case of rape and sexual abuse which ultimately had the rapist’s prison sentence raised from five to eight years.

The judgment drew attention to remarks made by the trial judge which belittled the rape and suggesting that the victims had acquiesced to or condoned the rapes and that they were minor.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes has taken this up with one of Scotland’s most senior judges as Scottish Legal News reports:

Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: “Judicial independence is a vital element of our justice system. However, people are questioning whether a judge who has expressed such views on rape and sexual assault should be presiding over cases involving these offences.

“Rape is a hugely serious offence and, as the Lord Justice Clerk indicated, it is vital that judges are capable of separating their personal views from their responsibilities under the law.

“Offences of rape and sexual assault have low reporting rates and lower conviction rates. In order to encourage people to come forward we need to ensure they don’t encounter outdated personal views.”

In her letter to the Lord Justice Clerk, Ms McInnes said one of her constituents questioned whether Lord Carloway deemed Lord Stewart’s comments, reported by Scottish Legal News, that he had had regard to the “effect that more severe punishment might possibly have, taking into account the guilt that child sex abuse survivors are often said to experience, particularly where family and relationship break-up is involved” appropriate.


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One Comment

  • I am glad the Appeal Court raised the sentence. Children who have experienced rape and sexual assault do often have feelings of guilt but this is because it is easier for them to think it is their fault than face the overwhelming fact of their terrible vulnerability. I am not sure whether the court has the power to instruct that children such as these should have free therapy from a trained psychotherapist, paid for by the state, but this would be a reform which would help the child to overcome such feelings of guilt if it is not available. I believe that the judge in this case showed how a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

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