Sexual and Violent Crime

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 September 2022.

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Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

6. To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government plans to take in light of reported figures showing that sexual and violent crime in Scotland has risen significantly over the last five years. (S6F-01325)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Crime, including violent crime, has fallen under this Government. However, recently, there has been a rise in recorded sexual and violent crimes. That might in part be because women are now feeling more confident to report such crimes to the police.

We are taking forward a range of activity to reduce violence as well as challenging behaviours and attitudes that we know can lead to violence against women and girls. Through the victim-centred approach fund, we have invested £18.5 million in specialist advocacy support for survivors of gender-based violence, and the delivering equally safe fund is providing £90 million per year to support projects that are focused on early intervention, prevention and support.

Additionally, building on the recommendations of Lady Dorrian, the criminal justice reform bill will further improve the experiences of victims in the justice system.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has made justice such an important part of the programme for government. I know that the First Minister agrees that underlying those horrendous figures is the huge societal and global problem of male violence against women, which we need to tackle with urgency in Scotland. However, the length of time that a case can take to come to court does not help victims to come forward. We should also bear in mind, as the First Minister said, that such crimes disproportionately affect women and children.

However, the Government recently extended time limits for court cases in the justice system. For example, in the preparation of a Crown case for the High Court, the limit used to be 80 days, but it is now 260 days. Therefore, some victims of sexual assault and rape have been dropping cases because they cannot bear to wait the years that it sometimes takes to go to trial.

What can the First Minister do to ensure that, month on month, those delays are coming down as we go towards 2025? What reassurance can the First Minister provide to victims of sexual crime that they will not have to wait years for justice?

The First Minister:

I know that Pauline McNeill accepts that I agree entirely with the sentiment of her question. The trauma that anyone who is a victim of sexual crime or domestic abuse goes through is only compounded if there are delays in bringing the perpetrator to justice. Therefore, there is a real seriousness of intent on the part of the Government.

Ms McNeill’s question was about what we can do. We need to ensure that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is supported and resourced to tackle those backlogs and bring down those waiting times, and we are determined to do that.

The matter is also extremely important to the Lord Advocate, and I am sure that she would be willing to speak to

Pauline McNeill and provide further information to MSPs about the work that has been done in the Crown Office to tackle the issues. Therefore, if it is of interest, I will convey that to the Lord Advocate, although it is entirely up to her what information she chooses to share. I assure Pauline McNeill, the Parliament and the wider public on how seriously we take the issue and that we will continue to work to deliver improvements.

The Presiding Officer:

That concludes First Minister’s questions.

I am aware that a statement has been made at Westminster on the health of Her Majesty the Queen. I will, of course, monitor developments and keep members updated over the course of the day. My thoughts and, I am sure, those of all in the Parliament are with Her Majesty at this time.