Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Sexual assault survivors recall being treated as ‘just a bit of evidence’ in court

Survivors of sexual assault have told MSPs of their experiences of the criminal justice system (PA)
Survivors of sexual assault have told MSPs of their experiences of the criminal justice system (PA)

Rape survivors have told how they were treated as an “afterthought” by the criminal justice system, which left them feeling like an “outsider” or just “a bit of evidence”.

With Holyrood considering major changes to the legal process, including scrapping the not proven verdict, women who have faced their abusers in court spoke about their experiences to the Criminal Justice Committee.

Convener Audrey Nicoll said it is “very important to hear the views of survivors of sexual crimes who have personal experience of the criminal justice system”.

While the women voiced concerns about some of the reforms planned – such as a pilot of judge-only trials for cases of rape and attempted rape, and reducing the number of people who sit on a jury – they spoke about the need for more support to be given to complainers in such cases.

Hannah Stakes recalled how a not proven verdict was returned against the man accused of raping her, “despite a massive amount of evidence, including DNA”.

But she said: “After three years, at the end of that trial I was just left. I saw the not proven verdict go through and then I walked out the court room and that was it.

“There was no reason for the decision, no follow up contact, it was just the system has failed you and off you go.”

Ellie Wilson, who saw her rapist convicted, complained: “We are treated like outsiders throughout the whole process.”

She said the whole justice system needs to be “survivor-centric”, adding that at the moment “it is as if victims are an afterthought”.

Speaking about how the defence lawyer in her attacker’s trial made her feel, she said: “I felt humiliated, I felt abused, I felt like I was treated like a criminal.”

Hannah McLaughlan has spoken out about the need for change in the justice system along with other women who were attacked by the same serial rapist.

Ms McLaughlan told MSPs she felt “treated as a bit of evidence” during the court process – which resulted in Logan Doig being jailed for nine-and-a-half years.

She said: “I would say to people, I have endured trauma from my abuser but also from the system that is supposed to provide me with justice, and that is not acceptable and needs to change.

“When you are on the witness stand you should not be made to feel embarrassed, humiliated or undermined by someone.

“You are made to feel as if you are a bit of evidence that just gets put on a shelf and is brought out when you are needed and you are just disregarded afterwards.”

She added complainers can be left feeling like they are “a miniscule part” of the justice process, saying: “It is your whole life, the lead up to it is all you are thinking about, but you are made to feel so small, such a small part of the process.”

Jennifer McCann, who was also attacked by Doig, said: “As it stands the criminal justice system is built on a game of chance, from who you report to, right through to your case preparer, your fiscal, to your advocate, to your judge to your jury.

“It’s a postcode lottery with a severe lack of consistency regarding procedures, support and trauma informed practice, and that’s what needs to change.”

They spoke about their experiences to MSPs scrutinising the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill.

The Bill seeks to reduce the number of people needed to sit on a jury from the current 15 to 12, of which a minimum of eight would be required to find a person guilty before they can be convicted.

Ms Wilson said she believes reducing the number of jurors could be “extremely detrimental for conviction rates”.

She said: “In my case I had a taped confession of my rapist confessing to raping me, and I still didn’t get a unanimous verdict, I got a verdict by majority.”

Other witnesses raised concerns about the plans to introduce judge-only trials for those accused of rape and attempted rape.

Sarah Ashby said: “I don’t think having a single judge is in my personal opinion the way to go. I feel like there should be a jury. Whether it needs to be on the scale and size it is now I’m not sure.

“Personally if I was to go through this again, I would feel more comforted by having a jury than it being a single person making that decision about my life.”

Ms Wilson meanwhile suggested the Bill should be changed to give abuse survivors a legal right to psychological support, telling MSPs: “Surely we could ringfence some funding for victims of the most serious crimes, who have actually taken that step to pursue justice, to actually provide some form of support for them, and I think that should be enshrined as a right in law.”

All the women have waived their right to anonymity.