Research into the use of Independent Legal Representation

In 2008 Rape Crisis Scotland commissioned Professor Fiona E. Raitt to conduct research into the use of Independent Legal Representation (ILR) for rape ‘complainers’ (the Scottish term for those who allege that they have been the victim of a criminal offence).

Fiona E. Raitt

Professor Fiona E. Raitt

The report was commissioned against a background in Scotland of low reporting; high attrition rates ; and poor conviction rates, such that in 2009, Scotland had the lowest conviction rate in the EU, save for Ireland. Apart from the UK, all other countries in Europe permit rape complainers to have a lawyer.  The research attracted considerable press comment and led to numerous invited papers at seminars and conferences for victim support organisations, legal practitioners and other professionals.

The research focussed on what difference ILR could make to complainers’ experiences and whether it was compatible with an adversarial trial system such as the Scottish one.  Without ILR, complainers, who are often highly vulnerable, have no legally qualified person to support them or to vindicate their interests and rights e.g. to privacy under article 8 of the ECHR and to compensation. The research concluded that third party representation of the type proposed operated to some extent in Canada and Ireland, countries with similar legal systems to Scotland, and was not necessarily incompatible with the Scottish system.  

Raitt’s work has been used by Rape Crisis Scotland to argue for ILR, most recently in evidence to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament.  In 2013 the Justice Committee reported that  ILR was worthy of further consideration by Scottish Government.  Raitt therefore continues to work with Rape Crisis and practising solicitor-advocates to refine an ILR model for piloting.

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