2021

How justice system can better serve women who have been raped

  • First published in : Visit Website
  • First published on: 31st Dec 2021

Here is a quite staggering statistic: sexual offences currently account for 70% of the criminal business dealt with by Scotland’s High Court. And, as we head into a new year, Scotland’s criminal courts are facing a serious backlog of cases, the vast majority of which involve rape and male violence against women. The backlog has built up since the courts had to close at the start of lockdown in 2020, but even before then the system was struggling to cope. 

It is against this background that the Lord Advocate has told MSPs that “radical action” is needed. The World Health Organisation describes sexual violence against women as a major public health problem and a violation of women’s rights which perpetuates gender inequality. The delay in bringing cases to trial is having a particular impact on women and girls at a time when we face an epidemic of male violence against women. 

The Lord Advocate is also concerned about the low conviction rate in sexual offence cases. Scottish Government statistics show that just 43% of cases of rape and attempted rape in 2019-2020 resulted in a conviction rate – compared to a rate of 88% for all crimes.  

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SNP still the best route to indy – but underlying issues must be our focus

  • First published in : Visit Website
  • First published on: 24th Dec 2021

Christmas is traditionally a time of peace and reconciliation. There are so many areas of conflict in our world that could benefit from this that I hope I will be forgiven for choosing to write about one that is close to home but very important to readers of the National. Last weekend in the Sunday National, my fellow nationalist, comrade and feminist sister, Ruth Wishart, wrote an impassioned plea for an end to what she called the uncivil war within the Yes movement. I agree with much of what Ruth said but the reality is that there can be no peace and reconciliation without an honest appraisal and acknowledgement of what has led to the conflict and a commitment to address some of the underlying problems. 

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Covid saved Dominic Raab from a grilling on the Human Rights Act

  • First published in : Visit Website
  • First published on: 17th Dec 2021

As Omicron gallops across the UK I have had to sit out events in Westminster, having tested positive last week. It’s been a strange dislocating experience, being ill alone in central London. Particularly so, as I missed my girlfriend’s birthday celebrations and it’s a reminder of how much the company of our loved ones matters, especially at this time of year. Whilst I don’t count Dominic Raab among their number, I was particularly frustrated to miss the chance to question him when he finally announced the consultation on his plans to “reform’ the Human Rights Act (HRA) in the House of Commons on Tuesday. 

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It has been a shocking week at Westminster in more ways than one

  • First published in : Visit Website
  • First published on: 10th Dec 2021

It has certainly been one of the most shocking weeks we have had at Westminster for a while. As the revelations of illegal parties at Number 10 last Christmas came hard and fast, the callous Nationality and Borders Bill was voted through to the delight of Priti Patel. There were also a number of twists and turns in the ongoing quest to find out just what the Tories have planned for the Human Rights Act (HRA) and whether the UK will continue as a member of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).  As I explained in my column last week, Westminster’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has concluded that the Nationality and Borders Bill which passed the Commons this week breaches the UK’s obligations under the ECHR as well as International Refugee and Maritime Conventions to which the UK is also signed up. 

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One chilling moment exposed the Tories' disregard for human rights

  • First published in : Visit Website
  • First published on: 03rd Dec 2021

Amidst all the usual shouting and mayhem at PMQs this week there was a truly chilling moment when Boris Johnson nodded enthusiastically as one of his more swivel eyed backbenchers demanded the UK’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Andrew Rosindell urged the PM to take the UK out of the ECHR as the only way to let us pass the laws necessary “to stop the endless waves of illegal migrants crossing the English Channel”. He also asked the PM to get rid of the Human Rights Act and bring in a British Bill of Rights. Although the PM declined to agree to either, confining himself to a “review of the human rights system” and songs of praise for the ghastly Nationality and Borders Bill, it was noticeable that during Rosindell’s diatribe the PM was nodding.

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Joanna Cherry QC MP

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