26 April 2023
The organisation established to continue Jill Saward’s fight for victims and survivors of sexual violence has welcomed proposals from the Scottish Justice Minister, Angela Constance, for judge-only trials for rape and attempted rape allegations, and for specialist courts to deal with sexual violence.
The Jill Saward Organisation (JSO) was set up following the death of the campaigner Jill Saward, at the age of 51, in 2017. The JSO’s director, Jill Saward’s widower Gavin Drake, said: “The last chapter of Jill’s 30-year-fight for victims and survivors was for reform of the jury system for rape and serious sexual assault allegations.
“The problem we see time and time again is that jurors find it hard to reconcile the image of the softly-spoken suited gentleman in the dock with their perception of what a rapist looks like – a shady man wearing a balaclava who jumps out from behind bushed. But the reality is that rapists do not have a look. And the image of popular culture is just one of many ‘rape myths’ that any prosecutor has to overcome if they are to convince a jury that an offence has occurred, yet alone that the man in the dock is the perpetrator of that offence.
“Of course, we need justice – and a fair trial is part of that,” Gavin Drake added. “But judges, if trained and experienced in sexual violence cases, can be trusted to ensure that evidence is scrutinised properly to determine the guilt or otherwise of the accused.
“So the Jill Saward Organisation welcomes the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill and we urge the government in the UK to consider a similar approach for England and Wales.” Gavin Drake also welcomed proposals to strengthen anonymity rights for victims in Scotland. “As a direct result of Jill’s case, the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 was brought in to give automatic right to victims of sexual violence in England and Wales”, he said. “I am glad that Scotland is now catching up.”