About the Sexual Offences Review
How the Sexual Offences Review began
In December 2021, the Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain KC, announced that a review would be carried out of how prosecutors in Scotland deal with reports of sexual offences (the Sexual Offences Review).
The Lord Advocate spoke about the Sexual Offences Review in an evidence session at the Criminal Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament on 22 December 2021. View the Lord Advocate speaking about the Sexual Offences Review.
In her announcement about the Sexual Offences Review, the Lord Advocate said:
“Scotland’s prosecutors work with justice partners as we strive to ensure that victims are treated with dignity and respect. Furthermore, COPFS is committed to working with those partners to transform the way the criminal justice system deals with these cases.”
Why the Sexual Offences Review is being done
The Sexual Offences Review recognises the profound impact that sexual crimes have on victims and on society and the fact that, in recent years, sexual offences have become about 70 per cent of the casework of Scotland’s High Court prosecutors and the number of cases has further increased in 2022.
The Scope of the Sexual Offences Review
The Lord Advocate has approved the scope of the Sexual Offences Review and it is contained in a document called the Terms of Reference.
How the Sexual Offences Review will work
The Sexual Offences Review Team will speak to a wide variety people involved in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, including victims, victim support services, Police Scotland, prosecution lawyers, defence lawyers, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and others, in Scotland, the UK and abroad.
The Team will gather information about the way sexual offences are currently dealt with, listen to people’s experiences and consider different ways to deal with reports of sexual offences.
All information will be handled in accordance with the Terms of Reference (see above).
About the Sexual Offences Review team
The Chair of the Sexual Offences Review
Susanne Tanner KC has been commissioned to conduct the Sexual Offences Review and also holds the appointment of Assistant Principal Crown Counsel.
Ms Tanner KC has a 25 year career in the legal profession in Scotland and has been a King’s Counsel since 2016. Her areas of practice include inquiries, reviews, criminal law, regulatory matters and reparation. She is a certified arbitrator, mediator, and a tribunal chair. She is dual qualified as a barrister in England and Wales. She has previously chaired an independent survivor-led inquiry into sexual offences for a local authority and an independent review into whistleblowing and organisational culture. She has held an appointment as a full time and part time Advocate Depute (a High Court prosecutor) since 2011 and during that time she has specialised in the prosecution of sexual crimes. From 2011-2014 she had a role as a specialist sexual offences prosecutor in the dedicated National Sexual Crimes Unit at Crown Office.
The Sexual Offences Review Team
Ms Tanner KC is being supported in the Sexual Offences Review by a team of experienced prosecutors and a project administrator seconded from COPFS.
Angela Farrell, Procurator Fiscal, joined COPFS in 1998 and has extensive prosecution experience, including working on COPFS Review of the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences in Scotland 2006 and Lord Coulsfield’s Review of the Law and Practice of Disclosure of Evidence in Criminal Proceedings. She also has long experience of sheriff and jury and high court work involving sexual offences, including as the Deputy Head of the High Court Unit.
Dr. Emma Forbes, Assistant Procurator Fiscal, joined COPFS in 2000 and has extensive experience in the prosecution of sexual offences and gender-based violence, most recently leading the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry Review team. She has published a book and articles on victim survivors’ experiences of the criminal justice process (www.glasswallsart.com).
Mylene Cremers, Senior Business Manager, joined COPFS in 1991 and has an extensive knowledge of processes within High Court Units. She also has a long experience of supporting the work of the Principal Crown Counsel team and Advocates Depute (High Court prosecutors), whose work includes sexual offences.
The Review Team will also use outside services, as required, to gather information.
Progress of the Sexual Offences Review
The evidence gathering stage of the Sexual Offences Review has now concluded and the review is closed to new evidence.
The Review team has now moved onto a careful analysis of all the evidence obtained. This includes internal focus groups, interviews and a questionnaire to a wide range of COPFS staff and Advocates Depute dealing with sexual offences cases.
Views were also gathered in focus groups and interviews with other contributors in Scotland and other countries, including police officers, solicitors, defence Counsel, third sector agencies, academics, government representatives and victims. Case studies have been carried out and documents have been requested from and produced by COPFS and other contributors. A literature review has been undertaken of previous reports, the legislative framework and important policy developments in the field.
The Review team is also considering the views from contributors at a Round Table event held in September, in which the focus was exploring emerging themes and recommendations. The analysis and recommendations will also be informed by the Review team’s participation in external conferences, working groups and events in Scotland, and other jurisdictions, to remain involved and aware of developments in the prosecution of sexual offences.
Susanne Tanner KC, the Chair of the Sexual Offences Review, will present a Report on the Sexual Offences Review to the Lord Advocate. This will include findings and recommendations to improve the way in which reports of sexual offences are dealt with by COPFS.
The key findings and recommendations in the Review will be published on this page of the COPFS website.
How to contact the Sexual Offences Review Team
If you would like to get in touch with the Sexual Offences Review Team about something within the scope of the Sexual Offences Review:
- You can contact the team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- You can call the team's dedicated number on 0300 020 3832
- You can also text the team on 07341 515046
The team will aim to answer your calls wherever possible but if they are not available, please leave a message. The team will respond as soon as possible and always within two working days.
The team will ask what you want to talk to them about.
Tell the Sexual Offences Review Team about your experiences
You can tell the Sexual Offences Review Team about your experiences, as long as you are not involved as a victim, witness or accused person in an ongoing case. Talking to us will help us to build a picture about how things could be better dealt with.
It may be difficult for you to tell us about your experiences. The Sexual Offences Review Team will carefully listen to you and do our best to support you when you are talking to us. We want you to feel safe when you speak to us.
You might need support to help you to give us information. If someone is already giving you support, or has supported you in the past, you might want to talk to them. They may also be able to help you through the process of speaking to us. If you do not have support already, the Sexual Offences Review Team will be able to provide you with a list of outside support services.
By talking to us you will help us make recommendations to ensure the process for prosecution of sexual offences in Scotland is better in the future.
What the Sexual Offences Review team cannot do
The Sexual Offences Review Team cannot:
- discuss ongoing cases with you, if you are a victim, witness or accused person,
- deal with complaints about COPFS
- deal with victims’ right to review prosecutorial decisions
- take a report of a crime
- provide clinical services to victims of crime
- re-investigate completed cases.
Services for victims of sexual crime
If you have been sexually assaulted or raped within the last seven days, you can contact the NHS Scotland sexual assault self-referral phone service.
Rape Crisis Scotland supports people who have been raped or sexually assaulted any time after the assault.
COPFS has published more information about victim support organisations which includes support services for victims of sexual crime.
Victim Information and Advice
COPFS refers victims of sexual crime to its Victim Information and Advice service for extra support.
If you are a victim or witness in an ongoing case, find out how you can contact COPFS.
Making a complaint about COPFS
COPFS has published information about how to give feedback or make a complaint about COPFS.
Victims' Right to Review
If you are the victim in a case reported COPFS to review a decision not to take action in the first place or to stop or discontinue a case after a case has started in court.
You can view COPFS published information about Victims' Right to Review.