After section 3

Part of Sexual Offences (Procedure and Evidence) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:15 pm on 6th March 2002.

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Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative 3:15 pm, 6th March 2002

I am pleased to support amendment 10, as it deals with the question of balance, which is an important component of justice. It is entirely appropriate that Phil Gallie lodged the amendment for debate at stage 3; I see nothing wrong in his doing that. The argument that he should have lodged the amendment at an earlier stage is simply a procedural smokescreen.

Rape is undoubtedly a serious crime. No member has argued differently and I do not expect any member to do so. It is regrettable that rape conviction rates are low. However, the prime reason for that is the lack of witnesses or corroborating evidence. Having a low conviction rate—as sad as that is—is no excuse for punishing the accused, who remain innocent until proven guilty. Phil Gallie outlined some of the many cases in which men have been unjustly accused of rape and have had their lives deeply affected by those false accusations. Some of those men took their lives.

Because rape is a heinous crime that involves sex, it is widely reported. Moreover, because a rape case often involves one person's word against another, even a finding of not guilty can leave doubts in people's minds. That can cause immense damage to reputations and lives.

Let us compare rape cases with less heinous but nonetheless serious cases that involve crimes such as burglary and car theft. In those other cases, the public knowledge of a verdict of innocence is not generally damaging to the person who was accused. Even being found guilty in such cases and serving a conviction can be less damaging for the accused than when an accused is found innocent in a high-profile rape case.