Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland – Crown Office failed to explain dropped rape prosecution. AS questions grow over the Crown Office & Lord Advocate’s role in the dropped prosecution of footballer David Goodwillie for rape, and other cases come to light where victims of crime and their families often end up as victims of the justice system itself and the sinister role of the Crown Office across a multitude of cases, crime victims are launching a campaign demanding their voice is heard in Scotland’s justice system reports the Sunday Mail newspaper.
As most victims of crime in Scotland will know from experience, dealing with Scotland’s secretive, unaccountable Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) – which often pursues its own agenda in criminal investigations or prosecutions, often places victims of crime in a far worse position after inept prosecutors and COPFS staff frequently dither, delay or fail to present cases or evidence in court – especially when friendships, associations and the vested interests of Scotland’s notorious gentlemen’s club of a justice system come into play.
Mar 16, 2014 08:41
By Marion Scott Sunday Mail
PARENTS Anne and Richard Craig whose son died in a school attack and Denise Clair, who claims to have been raped by a footballer, have spoken out about their experiences of Scotland's justice system.
CRIME victims joined forces yesterday to launch a campaign demanding their voice is heard in Scotland’s justice system.
Anne and Richard Craig, whose son Euan, 14, was punched to death at school, say their suffering was made worse by their dealings with prosecutors and courts.
They met Denise Clair, who fears her fight to discover the truth of what happened on the night she claims to have been raped by footballer David Goodwillie has been undermined by Crown Office decisions.
Anne, Richard and Denise were brought together by Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman Graeme Pearson, a former police chief, who is demanding extensive reform to improve the treatment of victims of crime.
The three – all supported by the Sunday Mail – have spoken to the MSP about their ordeals in a video to be shown at next weekend’s Labour conference in Perth.
Pearson, who has urged Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to act, said: “I spend a lot of my time speaking to families like the Craigs and victims like Denise Clair and it’s disheartening hearing what they have to say.
“Under this Government, we have a criminal justice system that no longer has victims at its heart.
“In fact, if they didn’t feel victimised enough before they entered the system, they most certainly do by the time they emerge at the other end.”
Senior firefighter Richard, 45, is disgusted that Darren Taylor was jailed for just three-and-a-half years for his attack on Euan, who died after being punched five times at Rosshall Academy in Glasgow two years ago.
Richard, of the city’s Cardonald, said: “Victims are the very last thing that matter today in Scotland’s criminal injustice system.
“If, like us, you suddenly find yourself thrust into that nightmare, you very soon discover victims are merely the audience in a pantomime.”
His wife Anne, 44, who works with homeless people, said: “We’ve just been told Taylor will be free in August.
“He’ll be free and we still don’t know how this could have happened to our boy, or how we can prevent it happening to other families.
“There’s more chance of winning the lottery than winning justice in Scotland.”
Denise, 27, was on a night out in Bathgate, West Lothian, in 2011 but woke the next day, naked, alone and terrified, locked inside a strange house in nearby Armadale.
Witnesses claimed she was so drunk or drugged that she was “100 per cent” incapable of consenting to sex but the Crown dropped Goodwillie’s rape prosecution.
He categorically denies doing anything wrong but Denise, who was given criminal injuries compensation for being attacked, is suing him in a civil action.
Denise will never know whether her drink was spiked because a specialist sex crime unit took too long to carry out blood tests.
She called police just after 9am but no doctor was available to do the tests until after 6pm.
Denise said: “My life will never be the same again but nobody has apologised, nobody has promised to ensure it won’t happen to other victims.”
The campaigners have described a culture of “institutional indifference” to Scotland’s victims of crime.
Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “Reporting rape can take a great deal of courage and far too many rape survivors continue to feel very let down by the justice system they believed was there to protect them.
“Only around a quarter of rapes reported to the police ever make it to court – and for those survivors whose cases do get to court, the experience can be very traumatic.
“Survivors often tell us of how violating they find the experience, particularly when their past sexual history is brought up in court.”
David Sinclair, of Victim Support Scotland, said: “Our service is in every sheriff and high court in Scotland and we are available to assist witnesses and victims in every way we possibly can.
“We do recognise there is still work to do to improve the system.”
He said they hoped to establish a central information hub, which would reduce the number of times a victim of crime would have to give a statement about what happened to them.
The Crown Office declined to comment but the Scottish Government said: “Our Victims and Witnesses Bill, recently passed by the Scottish Parliament, has been developed in close dialogue with established organisations representing victims and witnesses, including Victim Support Scotland.
“The measures contained in the Bill will make important improvements to the criminal justice system for victims and witnesses.
“It will improve support, provide greater protection to their rights, ensure a more joined-up support across the system and give victims and witnesses confidence that their voices will be heard.”
The new law will also introduce a victims’ surcharge fund.
Case study: Denise Clair
What I believe happened to me that night was hard to come to terms with – but how I was treated by the criminal justice system was every bit as bad.
Because they let me down, I’ll never know what happened to me that night and that’s unforgivable.
If I’d known how I was going to be treated, I’d never have called the police that day. They did their job but the system went on to let me down at every turn.
I had to give up my career with the prison service because the criminal justice system left me
broken. They took everything from me and left me feeling worthless.
They told me the evidence in my case was good, then they pulled the rug out from under me and dropped the charge. No proper explanation was given.
I was told to go away and get on with my life. Now I’ve got the extra trauma of relying on the civil court for some form of justice.
I’m not alone – there are hundreds like me who mistakenly thought victims came first.
It’s taken me a long time to rebuild my self-confidence but I’m determined to come out fighting to help other victims.
Case study: Richard and Anne Craig
Richard: There was a great hue and cry about what a wonderful thing victim impact statements were going to be – but the forms have space for a single sentence.
Then, after all the pain of sitting down for hours, trying to put your loss into words, these statements aren’t read out in court.
Isn’t that what they were supposed to be used for?
We quickly formed the impression that prosecution lawyers are just not used to being challenged.
What the public already know, but the Crown Office appear to have failed to understand, is that we don’t have a justice system.
It’s about making deals behind closed doors and bending over backwards to ensure criminals aren’t too traumatised from the slap on the wrist they are undoubtedly going to get in what passes for sentences.
It’s not about making sure victims come out the other side feeling less victimised, or God forbid, that they’ve had justice.
Anne: The first thing we were told when we went into court was that prosecutors weren’t there to represent us.
I’d always believed they were fighting for victims but nothing could be further from the truth. They told us they were there simply to present the facts.
If only they’d at least done that, Euan’s killer might have received a sentence that matched the severity of the crime.
Instead, they sat silent while the defence presented a picture of a lad who made a mistake.
The prosecution refused to introduce evidence that showed another side to him.
Nobody talked about what a wonderful boy our son was or how our family have been devastated by his loss.
We were excluded, almost as if we were mere bystanders. We weren’t consulted about why the charges were reduced and when we asked questions we were treated like unwanted guests at a gentlemen’s club.
Graeme Pearson: Criminals have lawyers but victims don't
WE need to turn things around so ordinary people feel they’re at the centre of the system, not on the fringe.
Right now, they feel as if they’ve been spat out, not listened to.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill keeps boasting that there is a 30-year low in recorded crime. But if police are not out arresting people because they are now doing the jobs of support workers then the figures will reflect that.
We now have many more alternatives to prison than ever before, including police and fiscal fines and warnings. No wonder victims say they’ve lost all confidence in the system.
There are many police officers, support staff and prosecutors working very hard to bring justice to victims.
But until we make radical changes, victims will continue to come out the other end feeling victimised for a second time.
They need to be able to walk away feeling their voices have been heard. When you see things like the impact statement forms, you can see why families feel their input is completely disregarded.
I’ve seen better-structured insurance claim forms – and they should be read out in court if witnesses wish, as well as being read out at parole hearings.
I proposed all of those things but they were rejected by the Government.
Victims should be told at the point of sentencing when the earliest date of release is for those sentenced to prison.
The criminals have lawyers talking up for them but victims and their families have no one.
It’s really simple. We need a criminal justice system that protects witnesses from abuse and allows them to deliver the best evidence.
We need a system that works for victims and witnesses every bit as well as it works for the accused.