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 Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 3:15 pm, 6th March 2002

Clearly, I must have misled myself. I meant to say that I am not satisfied that many of those who are acquitted are innocent. I think that most people who listened to the content of my remarks would have made that assumption, but I am grateful to Trish Godman for allowing me the opportunity to clarify what I said.

The fact remains that those who find themselves charged and are subsequently acquitted carry with them a degree of odium that can impact profoundly on their lives. That is a real argument for extending anonymity to the accused in such cases.

Roseanna Cunningham's argument has considerable merit, although I know that she was coming from a different direction. In small communities, when we name the accused, by implication we name the victim, too. That must be considered.

The other side of the argument, which was well articulated by Johann Lamont and Maureen Macmillan, is that fear must not be inculcated into victims under any circumstances. That must always be taken into consideration. Victims may feel that, if the accused is not named, there is not the same disincentive against people committing such offences. I accept the argument that has been made about that.

There are many different ways of looking at the issue, but I defend Phil Gallie resolutely on his lodging amendments 10 and 17 at stage 3—he has the right to do so. I accept the other side of the argument, as expressed by Gil Paterson, that such a matter should perhaps be subject to more detailed examination and that stage 2 might be more appropriate for that. However, Phil Gallie is perfectly within his rights and is abiding by the democratic standards of the Parliament in raising the matter at this stage.

There are arguments on both sides of the fence. Conservative members will vote on the amendments as individuals, because we recognise that there are differences on the issue. We feel firmly, however, that, irrespective of the results of the votes, the matter should, in time, be revisited. When that is done, a more detailed examination of the principles that Phil Gallie has ably espoused today may well result in a change to the legal system.