CHANGE is urgently needed in order for rape survivors to get justice, campaigners have said, as statistics show less than a quarter of those accused are convicted.

The latest figures released by the Scottish Government show the five-year average conviction rate is just 24% for those accused of rape or attempted rape with a single charge on the indictment.

For 2022 – 23, the conviction rate stood at 25.5%, which was an improvement on the previous year of 22.1%, the worst rate recorded in the past five years.

The figure for convictions of all crimes is considerably higher at 84%.

But Rape Crisis Scotland has stressed change is needed and is urging MSPs to get behind proposals in the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform Bill currently going through Parliament which it says could “radically change” how survivors experience the justice system.

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The bill includes plans to pilot judge-led trials for rape cases and scrap the Not Proven verdict.

The verdict is unique to Scots law and there is no equivalent in other jurisdictions.

Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “New figures released by the Scottish Government show the stark reality of just how difficult it is for survivors to get justice after rape.

“These figures only relate to those cases that reach court. Most rapes reported to the police never make it to court. Far too many survivors are being left with no sense of justice.

“There is robust research to show that rape myths have a significant impact on jury decision making in sexual offence cases. Survivors also often tell us that the experience of going to court is more traumatic than the experience of sexual violence itself.

“It couldn’t be clearer that change is urgently needed. The Scottish Government’s Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform Bill includes proposals which could radically change how survivors experience the justice system, including scrapping the Not Proven verdict, introducing specialist sexual offence courts and a pilot of judge led trials for rape cases.

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“We very much hope members from across the chamber will take its proposals seriously and vote to improve the experience of seeking justice in Scotland for survivors of sexual violence.”

The bill will return to Holyrood next week for debate and proposes to also change the size of criminal juries from 15 to 12.

It aims to address a number of issues around serious sexual offences, creating a new specialist sexual offences court.

The legislation would also guarantee an automatic right to state-funded independent legal representation for complainers when applications are made by the defence to lead evidence on their sexual history or "bad character" in sexual offence cases. 

Statistics released in June last year showed rapes in Scotland were at their highest level on record.

There were 2411 rapes in 2022/23 up from 2,370 in the previous year, and up from 1690 in 2013.