Liberal Democrats write to Lord Justice Clerk over trial judge rape comments

Alison McInnes

Following controversial comments made by a judge on rape as well as the sexual abuse of children, one opposition party has written to the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway, to highlight public concern.

In May a jury in HM Advocate v SSM found a defendant guilty of seven charges, including rape and the sexual abuse of children.

Last week the Criminal Appeal Court overturned the original five-year custodial sentence and substituted an eight-year prison term and four years of supervision after release in the interests of public safety.

In the original sentencing, the trial judge refers to the victim as “condoning” or “acquiescing in” the rapes.

Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: “Judicial independence is a vital element of our justice system. However, people are questioning whether a judge who has expressed such views on rape and sexual assault should be presiding over cases involving these offences.

“Rape is a hugely serious offence and, as the Lord Justice Clerk indicated, it is vital that judges are capable of separating their personal views from their responsibilities under the law.

“Offences of rape and sexual assault have low reporting rates and lower conviction rates. In order to encourage people to come forward we need to ensure they don’t encounter outdated personal views.”

In her letter to the Lord Justice Clerk, Ms McInnes said one of her constituents questioned whether Lord Carloway deemed Lord Stewart’s comments, reported by Scottish Legal News, that he had had regard to the “effect that more severe punishment might possibly have, taking into account the guilt that child sex abuse survivors are often said to experience, particularly where family and relationship break-up is involved” appropriate.