Pilot scheme to improve support for rape complainers and victims given boost

Michael Matheson

A pilot scheme aimed at improving the support available for complainers and victims of rape as they engage with the justice system will be extended, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has announced.

The National Advocacy Project (NAP) was set up with Scottish government funding in February 2016 to help improve the support available to complainers and victims of rape and other serious sexual crimes, and specifically their experience of the criminal justice process.

The Rape Crisis Scotland-led pilot project, and an independent evaluation whose findings are being published today, also sought to gain a better understanding of people’s’ motivations to proceed or not to proceed with criminal proceedings and the difference that advocacy support makes to such decisions.

In response to the evaluation and recommendations, Mr Matheson has agreed to provide enhanced funding of £1.7 million over two years to expand the number of advocacy workers in areas of most demand and provide additional capacity for Rape Crisis Scotland to support and co-ordinate the expanded project at a national level..

He said: “Sexual assault and rape are horrific crimes which as a society we must do all we can to prevent, while also ensuring a robust response to investigate, detect and bring to justice perpetrators.

“The Scottish government continues to work with partners across public services and the third sector to ensure that victims of rape and other sexual crimes not only receive support, but actually feel supported from the very moment they need it.

“Despite an increase in the number of people coming forward in recent years, we recognise that crimes such as rape and domestic abuse continue to be under-reported when compared to other types of crime, and that an efficient, victim-centred legal process is an essential part of ensuring necessary support for victims.

“Advocacy services have a key role in helping victims to come forward and engage with the legal process and through this additional investment we can strengthen the support available to victims of sexual crime and help secure confidence in the justice system.”