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GILRUTH WELCOMES EXTENSION OF SUCCESSFUL ADVOCACY PROJECT
GILRUTH WELCOMES EXTENSION OF SUCCESSFUL ADVOCACY PROJECT
Scottish Government announces £1.7m to extend advocacy service after successful pilot.
Jenny Gilruth MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes has welcomed an announcement from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, that a pilot scheme to improve the support available for victims of rape will be extended.
The National Advocacy Project (NAP) was set up with Scottish Government funding in February 2016 to help improve the support available to survivors of rape and other serious sexual crimes, and specifically their experience of the criminal justice process.
The Rape Crisis Scotland-led pilot project, and an independent evaluation whose findings are being published today, also sought to gain a better understanding of survivors’ motivations to proceed or not to proceed with criminal proceedings and the difference that advocacy support makes to such decisions.
In response to the evaluation and recommendations, the Scottish Government have committed to enhanced funding of £1.7 million over two years in order to expand the number of advocacy workers in areas of most demand and provide additional capacity for Rape Crisis Scotland to support and co-ordinate the expanded project at a national level.
Commenting, Ms Gilruth said:
“Crimes such as rape and domestic abuse continue to be under-reported when compared to other types of crime. As a society we must do all we can to prevent these horrific crimes, but we must also ensure a robust response to investigate, detect and bring perpetrators to justice.
“The Scottish Government is committed to continuing its work with partners across public services and the third sector to create an efficient victim centred legal process.
“Advocacy services have a key role in helping victims to come forward and actually feel supported from the very moment they need it. Through this additional investment from the Scottish Government, we can strengthen the support available to victims of sexual crime and help secure confidence in the justice system.”
Rape Crisis Scotland Co-ordinator, Sandy Brindley said:
"'Life-changing' is how rape survivors have described the support provided by the National Advocacy Project, in the independent evaluation published today. Reporting a sexual offence and going through the resulting justice process can be difficult, and it's crucial that people have dedicated support in place to assist them throughout this process. We are delighted that we will be able to expand the project, to allow us to more fully meet the needs of people through Scotland who have experienced rape or sexual assault."
The independent evaluation of the National Advocacy Project was undertaken by Oona Brooks-Hay, Michele Burman, Lisa Bradley and Deborah Kyle for the Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research (SCCJR). The SCCJR is due to publish the evaluation report at around 12 noon on Thursday March 1st.
The Scottish Government has provided £20 million dedicated funding for 2015-18 to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls. This included funding for Rape Crisis Scotland to support a national advocacy project (NAP), delivered throughout Scotland with advocacy workers based in each rape crisis centre. In addition, funding was provided to support the work of the National Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator post and to establish 2 new centres in Orkney and Shetland. The £1.7m (2018-20) enhanced funding for the NAP builds on the success of the pilot and allows its expansion by increasing the numbers of advocacy workers in response to the issues identified around capacity in the evaluation report.
The two-year funding represents an increase to £861,000 for each of the next two years – up from £560,000 in 2017-18. In addition to continuing funding of 15 full-time advocacy workers in each RCS centre in Scotland, the service will be enhanced by the appointment of additional advocacy workers and additional capacity for Rape Crisis Scotland to support and co-ordinate the expanded project at a national level.
The Scottish Government strengthened and modernised the law through the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act passed in 2009. The Crown Office deploys specialist prosecutors to ensure these cases are given the best available consideration and preparation to help ensure the best possible chances of successful prosecutions. Police Scotland established a National Rape Taskforce and a Rape & Sexual Crime External Advisory Group which operates across the service to continue to inform and improve rape investigation.
The changes to judicial directions for certain sexual offence trials which came into force in April 2017 aim to challenge any pre-conceived notions that jurors may have about how a person “should” react when they are the victim of a sexual offence. A high-profile public information campaign challenging wider public attitudes to the issue – #ijustfroze – was also launched last year, commissioned by Rape Crisis Scotland with Scottish Government funding.
The Scottish Government has also commissioned research into how juries reach decisions. The work, which is being carried out over two years, will consider jury size, decision-making processes, majorities needed and Scotland’s three-verdict system – gathering evidence to inform future reform of the criminal justice system in Scotland. Read more from the September 2017 announcement of the research team.
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