Sexual Assaults

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th April 1999.

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Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen Labour, Leyton and Wanstead 12:00 am, 27th April 1999

How individuals who have (a) been victims of and (b) committed male rape are dealt by the judicial system within Scotland. [81000]

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office

The term "male rape" does not exist in Scots criminal law. A man who forces another man to have non-consensual sexual intercourse with him would face charges of indecent assault and sodomy. The penalties for such offences are limited only by the court in which they are tried—that is, up to life imprisonment for a case heard in the High Court. The needs of victims of sexual assault are increasingly recognised by the agencies in the criminal justice system, which provide support as appropriate.

From 1 July, this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply; he has written to me previously to the effect that male rape is a foreign concept in Scots law. However, given that it is not a recognised criminal offence in Scotland, there is no point in reporting incidents or providing official trauma counselling for victims, and perpetrators are not brought to justice. Male rape is recognised in England and Wales as a specific criminal offence: does not that mean that, in this instance, the law in England and Wales is superior to that in Scotland?

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office

I appreciate my hon. Friend's contribution to the debate in England and Wales over the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, to which he refers. However, as I said, Scots law does provide for the offences of indecent assault and sodomy. We in Scotland see no need to change the current definitions, and we consider that the common law of Scotland is sufficiently flexible.

In addition, we are doing a great deal in Scotland to help the victims of all crime, and I have just completed a consultation report on the matter of intimidated and vulnerable witnesses. I assure my hon. Friend that indecent assault and sodomy are covered by Scots law, and that we are also doing a great deal for victims of crime and for intimidated witnesses.