Mind the gap: Implementing ‘rape shield’ laws in Scottish sexual offences trials

Sharon Cowan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

In this chapter, I examine the operation of Scottish ‘rape shield’ laws-s274 and s275 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995-that restrict the introduction of sexual history and bad character evidence in sexual offences trials. Against the backdrop of recent sexual offences statistics in Scotland, I assess how the law is currently being implemented in Scotland, highlighting a problematic ‘justice gap.'. I will show that although more evidence is needed to fully understand the complex constellation of legal, procedural and practical barriers to proper implementation of rape shield legislation, the evidence we do have suggests that the dignity and privacy of those reporting sexual offences are not fully protected by the legislation, despite a specific statutory provision detailing that aim. I do this not to unquestioningly bolster support for an unreflective punitive justice framework, or suggest that law reform can be simply finessed in a way that fundamentally addresses structural inequalities and violence, but to examine the routinised operation of a system that is assumed to protect the most vulnerable, and fairly balance the rights and interests of the parties involved in a sexual offences trial. Such scrutiny is a necessary first step if we are to show how the legal protections against sexual violence require more than superficial reform.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Directions in Sexual Violence Scholarship
Subtitle of host publicationLaw, Power and Change
EditorsKate Gleeson, Yvette Russell
PublisherTaylor and Francis Group
Pages151-172
Number of pages22
Edition1
ISBN (Electronic)9781000857283
ISBN (Print)9781032051468
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

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