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Summary

  1. MSPs take evidence on the proposed BTP merger with Police Scotland from witnesses including BTP Chief Constable Paul Crowther
  2. Ministers are quizzed during topical questions on Police Scotland and alcohol pricing
  3. An update for the funding of childcare expansion is provided
  4. The Scottish government leads a debate entitled 'Success of the Commonwealth Games"
  5. MSPs debate the Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill for the final time
  6. Kezia Dugdale leads a members’ debate on ‘Support for Rape Crisis Centres and Prosecutions'

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Louise Wilson

All times stated are UK

That's all from Holyrood Live

Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo and Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale
BBC
Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo and Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale

That's all from Holyrood Live on Tuesday 1 May 2018.

The Solictor gGeneral defended the recent change to Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service policy which enables courts to compel complainers in rape cases to give evidence in court.

Alison Di Rollo insisted victims would only be compelled in exceptional circumstances.

She explained the reason was to ensure courts were able to make a final decision on prosecution rather than giving victims of sexual violence an effective veto.

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale and others called for the policy to be reversed, citing concerns that it would discourage rape survivors from coming forward.

DPO recommends MSPs speak to business managers regarding a further debate

Chamber
BBC

Deputy Presiding Officer Christine Grahame suggests to members that they may wish to contact their business managers to get more time given the importance of the debate.

That ends today's proceedings.

'We have to protect the women and children in our society'

Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo
bbc
Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo

Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo says COPFS are working hard to address the reluctance of victims to come to court and she welcomes Lord Carloway's comments today.

Ms Di Rollo says: "We have to protect the women and children in our society."

"This is not a policy of compelling complainers."

The Solicitor General explains it is a policy of reclaiming decision making power in relation to rape and serious sexual offences, it can't be the decision of the complainer.

Warrant will only be sought in exceptional circumstances says solicitor general

The solicitor general reiterates a warrant will only be sought in the most exceptional and rare of circumstances.

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson says this means courts reserve the right to compel and urges individuals to be given the right to refuse.

Ms Di Rollo says the legal and ethical issues mean this cannot be the case.

The courts must take positive action to protect the rights of those subjected to rape, she adds.

Green MSP John Finnie raises concerns about the quality of evidence but Ms Di Rollo says she cannot envision a circumstance where some will be compelled if quality is in doubt.

'This policy is all about doing the right thing' - Solicitor General

Ms Di Rollo says in the balancing exercise that must be undertaken in the public interest, on the one hand is protecting society and the other is protecting the victim.

"This policy is all about doing the right thing."

Before it complainers effectively had a veto on prosecutions, she says.

Kezia Dugdale listens to Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo
bbc
Kezia Dugdale listens to Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale intervenes asking the Solicitor General to respond to the testimony she put forward.

Ms Di Rollos responds saying COPFS is working with both Rape Crisis and Police Scotland to encourage victims to come forward and to ensure they do not feel threatened by compulsion.

"That would be wholly inappropraite."

'This is not a policy to compel rape victims to come to court'

Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo
BBC
Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo

Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo welcomes the opportunity to clarify what this policy means.

"This is not a policy to compel rape victims to come to court."

She tells members she will continue to do all she can to support victims of rape and sexual violence.

The policy is about being clear and honest with complainers and those who support them that the decision of whether of not the case is prosecuted is one for the Crown, Ms Di Rollo explains.

Complainers views and welfare are at the heart of decision making, the solicitor general emphasises.

'We can't neglect the wishes and the wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence'

Labour MSP Monica Lennon
bbc
Labour MSP Monica Lennon

Labour MSP Monica Lennon pays tribute to Kezia Dugdale for her tireless work in giving a voice to survivors of sexual violence.

Ms Lennon also praises the Solictor General Alison Di Rollo for her work in the role.

The Labour MSP says it was with anger and disbelief that she reacted to the policy change introducing the compulsion of rape complainers.

"We can't neglect the wishes and the wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence."

The Labour MSP cites the repeated times rape survivors face a hostile environment in court.

Justice system itself is barrier to women coming forward says SNP MSP

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson
BBC
SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson says a victim will only be compelled in exceptional circumstances.

However he says it is vital women are not discouraged from coming forward and they must therefore be properly supported.

He recognises a key barrier to many women not reporting sexual assault is the justice system itself, with many women feeling punished by a system which is meant to protect them.

Mr Gibson welcomes Lord Carloway's comments this morning.

Concerns about the recent policy change

Labour MSP Claire Baker
bbc
Labour MSP Claire Baker

Labour MSP Claire Baker says the recent policy change is concerning.

Ms Baker says it seems unnecessary unless it is a threat or a warning, which is not justified when dealing with the victims of rape.

The Labour MSP echoes concerns about funding for Fife Rape and Sexual Assault Centre.

She says rape is a crime that reaches all parts of our society, one we must confront and one where victims must have justice.

Compelling complainers will have profound human consequences

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton
BBC
Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton says many assumptions and stigma around sexual violence endure.

He reflects on competing human rights in terms of striking the balance between individual and public rights.

However, Mr Cole-Hamilton says he feels that compelling reluctant complainers will have profound unintended human consequences.

He commends the five asks from Rape Crisis Scotland.

Background: New clinic for victims of sexual violence

The clinic will be based at Sandyford in Glasgow
bbc
The clinic will be based at Sandyford in Glasgow

Scotland's first clinic for victims of sexual violence was due to open at the end of February.

Experts said women who had experienced sexual violence often could not face going to the doctors for smear tests and other intimate examinations.

The new clinic will also provide specialist medical care and support for victims.

It will be based at the Sandyford in Glasgow and is funded by the Scottish government.

Tory MSP says compelling witnesses to give evidence will not help

Tory MSP Maurcie Corry
bbc
Tory MSP Maurcie Corry

Tory MSP Maurcie Corry says this is a very difficult topic and this is an area where the right balance must be struck between the needs of victims, the needs of prosecutors and the needs of the courts.

Mr Corry says compelling witnesses to give evidence will not help the overall situation of a reduction in rape convictions.

He calls on the government to rethink this policy and listen to the advice of Rape Crisis scotland.

Background: Rape victim care improvements set out

The aim is for victims across the country to be given the same high standards of care
PA
The aim is for victims across the country to be given the same high standards of care

Last Decemeber we reported that improvements were to be made to services for victims of rape or sexual assault in Scotland.

National written standards for the forensic medical examination of victims were to be introduced for the first time.

And the Scottish government was to invest more than £2m as part of efforts to ensure a more consistent approach in the way cases are handled.

It came after a watchdog strongly criticised the treatment of sexual assault victims by the NHS and police.

The report by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary (HMICS), which was published in March, said services offered to some victims were "unacceptable" and lagged behind the rest of the UK, with many victims being examined in police stations.

Read more here.

SNP MSP calls for financing of rape crisis centres in face of increasing demand

SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth
BBC
SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth

SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth says she will focus on the call for adequate funding for rape crisis centres.

She notes the Fife Rape and Sexual Assault Centre had to close its waiting list due to funding difficulties, though she welcomes the fact it has now reopened.

The upward trajectory of women presenting themselves to such services must be considered and properly financed, Ms Gilruth says.

Scotland already has one of the highest rates of women in prison says the SNP MSP and she warns the policy could compound a culture which makes female victims feel like criminal.

Here are the five asks from Rape Crisis Scotland again.......

Labour MSP commends five asks from Rape Crisis Scotland to the Crown Office

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie
bbc
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie says the physical and mental wellbeing of rape complainers must be the number one priority, but some face treatment in the justice system that is inexcusable.

Ms Baillie says Rape Crisis Scotland have issued warnings about the change in policy.

She says rape victims already find it difficult enough to present their evidence and many cite the hostility of the justice system as a reason not to come forward.

Ms Baillie repeats the words of one rape victim who said the justice process was "worse than rape itself".

The Labour MSP commends the five asks from Rape Crisis Scotland to the Crown Office.

Sex attack victims usually know attacker, says new study

By Lucy Adams BBC Scotland correspondent

More than 90% of rape and sexual assault victims know their attacker, a new study of almost 1,000 victims says.

Researchers from Glasgow University said it was a popular misconception that most attackers were strangers.

The study looked at the 991 women in Scotland who went through an advocacy programme, which ran for 18 months.

It found that despite many reforms to rape laws, women still suffered as a result of delays and the impersonal nature of the justice system.

Read more here.

Lib Dem MSP expresses concern about loss of legal support in Shetland

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott
BBC
Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott welcomes many of the steps set out by Lord Carloway earlier today.

He expresses concern about the potential loss of the provision of legal support for rape complainers in Scotland due to changes to legal aid, as Shetland is only covered by one firm.

"We need to do a whole lot more," he concludes.

State must not inflict grief on rape survivors says Green MSP

Green MSP John Finnie
BBC
Green MSP John Finnie

Green MSP John Finnie says the state's way of helping an individual must not inflict more grief on them.

You cannot always get quality evidence when a person has been compelled, he says.

The victims of sexual violence must be treated uniquely, Mr Finnie insists.

Key to this is also the support mechanisms put in place, the Green MSP states, expressing regret that a member of the cabinet responsible for money is not in attendance.

'We cannot simply trump the rights of the individual in the wider interest'

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson
bbc
Labour MSP Daniel Johnson

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson says he has huge concerns about the Crown's policy and he supports Kezia Dugdale's call for a pause and for the implementation of her five point plan.

Mr Johnson says, above all else, the conviction rate must be improved.

He says: "We cannot simply trump the rights of the individual in the wider interest."

The Labour MSP says it is vital that any policy has trust.

Background: Rape victim says court case was like 'memory test'

'Giving evidence at my rape trial was very intimidating'

Cathryn Coutts was raped in Edinburgh's Greyfriars kirkyard in November 2009 but it took years to get a DNA match and identify her attacker.

The case came to court last summer, almost eight years after the night of the attack.

Cathryn says that after so long it felt like a "memory test" and that waiting in court was like "hell".

"All of a sudden after all these years here it was again, back at the front of my mind," she says.

"I would try night after night to remember but nothing was coming back to me."

She says reliving the experience in court was "just an awful feeling".

"You just want it over with," she says.

Read more about Cathryn's experience.

Balance must be struck around interests of victims and public, says Tory MSP

Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell
BBC
Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell

Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell says it is essential for COPFS to be able to prosecute in the public interest.

Compelling witnesses to give evidence is a long-standing capability but this is the first time it has been put into formal documentation regarding rape cases, she explains.

There is a balance to be struck between the interests of the complainer and the wider public interests, she says.

Ms Mitchell calls for the necessary support to be put in place to ensure rape victims feel able to come forward and give evidence.

The Tory MSP expresses concern about funding not being increased for rape crisis centres, specifically referring to the one which covers north and south Lanarkshire in her own region.

Background: Scottish rape conviction rate drops to 39%

Women in distress
Getty Images

The conviction rate for rape and attempted rape in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level in eight years, according to new figures.

The latest official statistics show 39% of those taken to court were found guilty, down from 49% in the previous year.

The conviction rate is the lowest since 2008/09 when it was 37%.

The 2016/17 figures show a 16% rise in court proceedings from the previous year (251) but a drop in convictions.

Although those convicted dropped from 105 to 98, this was still double the number of a decade ago (49) when far fewer cases made it to court.

Read more here.

SNP MSP says policy would only be used in exceptional circumstances

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire
bbc
SNP MSP Ruth Maguire

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire says when she first read about this policy she was shocked.

Ms Maguire says the briefing of the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General provided some assurance.

She says the safety and wellbeing of women are fully at the forefront of Ms Di Rollo's thinking.

The SNP MSP says the Solicitor General said the policy would only ever be used in exceptional circumstances.

Background: Rape victims 'should not attend court' says Scotland's top judge

Judge's ultimate goal is for rape victims to avoid courtroom evidence

Scotland's most senior judge has said victims of rape and sexual assault should not have to appear in court.

Lord Carloway told the BBC his "ultimate objective" was for alleged victims to be able to give filmed statements within 24 hours.

The judge also said their cross-examination should take place well before the trial and away from court.

Senior defence advocates warned that a fair trial involved being able to properly test a victim's evidence.

Leading QC Derek Ogg said he was in favour of treating witnesses and victims as humanely as possible but the defence counsel must maintain the right to test evidence by cross-examination.

Read more here.

'This policy must be scrapped'

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant
bbc
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant agrees with Ms Dugdale and says the Crown policy further demeans those already at a low ebb and adds that it will lead to fewer prosecutions.

Ms Grant warns against "victim blaming" and says victims must be protected against "vicious lawyers".

The Labour MPs says it is unbelievable that someone could report they have been raped but could end up in jail because they are too overwhelmed.

This could lead to breakdown or even suicide, the Labour MSP says.

"This policy must be scrapped."

Call for rape complainers to no longer give evidence in court

Ms Dugdale
bbc

Ms Dugdale says rape complainers should not have to give evidence in court, rather it should be pre-recorded.

The Labour MSP says she was delighted to hear Lord Carloway back this on the radio this morning.

She says she does not doubt the Crown's intentions but the belief of campaigners is that this policy will have the opposite affect and she urges the government to think again.

Background: Rape victims who won't testify may face jail under controversial policy

Warrants will only be sought for rape victims who refuse to give evidence in court in "the most exceptional of circumstances", the Solicitor General has said.

Alison Di Rollo said that while the Crown Office could not rule out the possibility that a witness warrant may be required, such a situation has not arisen in her decade of prosecuting rape cases in the High Court.

Rape Crisis Scotland
bbc
Rape Crisis Scotland

Scotland's second most senior law officer was responding to questions from MSPs over new guidance on how the Crown Office deals with reluctant complainers in cases of rape and other serious sexual offences.

The guidance means complainers who try to withdraw from cases may be compelled to testify where prosecution is deemed to be in the public interest.

Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women's Aid and Engender have all criticised the move, stating issuing warrants for the arrest of victims would reduce confidence in the system.

Click here for the letter from Rape Crisis Scotland to the COPFS expressing 'significant concern' and calling for the policy to be reconsidered.

Ms Dugdale tells story of rape victim faces with possibility of facing perpetrator in court

Ms Dugdale highlights a Scottish government report published last year which found victims believe the court process is "utterly humiliating".

The Labour MSP goes on to detail one specific case of a rape victim, that she has checked with the Parliament that is not sub judice.

Kezia Dugdale
BBC

The police were called for the victim and that was not a decision made by herself after the rape. She was awake for 48 hours from then while she gave statements.

Later, she was told the perpetrator had been released on bail and the courts would be in touch regarding a trial.

This was the first time the possibility of going to trial hit her, and she wondered: "How will I be strong enough to answer questions?"

When the victim was told it would be possible to withdraw from the process if she needed to, she described a sense of relief.

But when she was alerted to the change in policy and it because clear she might be forced to give evidence, she immediately panicked.

The victim has said that, if she was to go back to the point of the police first being contacted, knowing she would be unable to withdraw from facing her attacker in court, she might not have reported the crime at all.

Background: Rape victim policy change criticised

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

Prosecutors have been reviewing the way they deal with reluctant complainers in rape cases and have produced new guidance.

But Rape Crisis Scotland said issuing warrants for the arrest of victims who do not wish to testify in court would reduce confidence in the system.

Women in distress
Getty Images

The Crown Office said it consulted with stakeholders before making the change.

The new policy has already come into force.

The Crown Office said it would take into account the attitude of the complainer and the individual circumstances in serious sexual offence cases.

It has insisted it will try to re-engage and support victims but has admitted that in some cases it will compel them to give evidence even if they are reluctant.

Read more here.

Labour MSP says Solicitor General wrong on compulsion of reluctant complainers policy

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale
bbc
Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale says this is a critically important issue and highlights the five point plan from Rape Crisis Scotland and calls for it to be implemented.

Ms Dugdale calls for the recent change of policy by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) on compelling reluctant complainers in rape cases to give evidence to be reconsidered.

She says rape crisis centres are under immense pressure.

The Labour MSP says she is delighted to see the Solicitor General in place, saying she is an impressive lawyer but adds she believes she is wrong of this.

Call to address reasons complainers feel unable to continue with justice process

Ms Dugdale
bbc
Ms Dugdale

Ms Dugdale will also highlight calls for the Lord Advocate to reconsider this policy and to engage with Rape Crisis Scotland to ensure that COPFS’s approach is informed by the needs and experiences of rape complainers.

The calls to redouble efforts in addressing the reasons that complainers feel unable to continue with the justice process are also highlighted in the Labour MSP's motion.

She also will put pressure on the Scottish government to ensure that all rape crisis centres in Scotland receive adequate and sustainable funding to facilitate survivor engagement with the criminal justice system and meet their support needs.

Here's the motion.........

Motion
Scottish Parliament

Next... a member's debate on support for rape crisis centres and prosecutions

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale
bbc
Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale will now lead a member's debate entitled 'Support for Rape Crisis Centres and Prosecutions.

Ms Dugale will highlight the recent change of policy by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) on compelling reluctant complainers in rape cases to give evidence and the opposition that this has attracted from charities that work directly with survivors.

She will raise concerns that this change in policy could jeopardise both the wellbeing of survivors and their access to justice.

MSPs agree both amendments and motion on Commonwealth Games debate

Just some of Scotland's medal winners....
bbc
Just some of Scotland's medal winners....
Motions and amendments
Scottish parliament