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Working together to tackle sexual offences

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is bringing together experts working in the field of sexual offences for a major conference at Hampden. 

The 2015 Sexual Offences Conference, hosted by Crown Agent Catherine Dyer, takes place on Friday 4 December and will hear from experts from COPFS, Police Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland as well as those working within the NHS to provide services to victims of sexual offences.

It will cover a range of topics including the investigation and prosecution of historical abuse, the impact of abuse on victims, the importance of an understanding of trauma and how this can assist when interviewing victims and prevention work being carried out with young people.

Delegates will also hear about rape myths and their potential to influence juries.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Kath Harper, Head of COPFS National Sexual Crimes Unit (NSCU) said:

“The prosecution of sexual offences has and always will be a top priority.

Due to the fact that these crimes often occur in private outwith the presence of witnesses or because forensic opportunities can be lost where the cases reported are historical in nature, such cases have always had the potential to be complex and challenging.

"In recent years however, developments such as the introduction of specialist prosecutors and a dedicated National Sexual Crimes Unit at COPFS and the formation of Police Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Taskforce, Rape Taskforce and the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit have greatly enhanced our ability to more effectively deal with such offending.

“Over two thirds of cases going through the High Court at any time now relate to sexual offences which we believe is due to a combination of factors including: the impact of the changes made by the 2009 Sexual Offences Act, the effect of the Savile case raising awareness of such crimes, , and the increased specialisation in both COPFS and Police Scotland leading to an increase in convictions and of course the increased confidence of victims who have had the courage to come forward and report these offences.

“However we are not complacent and appreciate more work needs to be done with Police, stakeholders and media to further expose rape myths and ensure that we work across jurisdictions to bring perpetrators to justice. “

Speaking for Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said:

"Tackling sexual crime and protecting those at risk of sexual crime is a priority for Police Scotland. As a single force we are in a unique position to deliver a consistent service right across the country, in all our communities.

"People are much more confident about reporting sexual crime in the knowledge it will be investigated. However the nature of the crimes being reported and the subsequent investigations is changing.

"Online offending is an increasing concern, whether it is domestic abuse related incidents or child abuse including child sexual exploitation. And we are dealing with a significant increase in non-recent sexual offending.

"These are complex crimes often involving very vulnerable people, and investigations can be difficult because of the nature of the crimes - but we are committed to investigating every report we receive. Our understanding of these issues is evolving and our investigative capability is changing to match, so we can make the links, identify victims and proactively pursue perpetrators."