Sexual Offences (Scotland) BIll introduced to Parliament

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 17th June 2008.

The bill is largely based on the Scottish Law Commission Report on Rape and Other Sexual Offences (Scot Law Com no 207).  The bill defines 'consent' and will replace the common-law crime of rape with a broader statutory offence – which is will encompass male rape.  The bill introduces a number of new statutory offences including provisions dealing with sexual exposure, the 'spiking' of drinks for sexual purposes and coercive sexual conduct, including sexually offensive emails or texts.

 Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, praised the Scottish Law Commission work on the area but noted that reform of the law was not a cure-all for the problem of low conviction rates in the area (a concern regularly expressed in the area and on which see 760, and this post of 17th June, and the concerns underpinning the references to the SLC on the law of evidence following the World's End murder acquittal (703)).

"Of course, reform of rape law will not, on its own, improve low conviction rates. Other on-going work is vital – improving investigation and prosecution of rape and sexual assault, reviewing law of evidence and challenging public attitudes to rape and sexual assault. However this Bill will, together with this other work, contribute to improving the criminal justice system's response to crimes of rape and sexual assault. "

The Scottish government has not accepted all of the Scottish Law Commission's recommendations – rejecting the recommendation to decriminalise all consensual sexual activity between 13-15 year olds; and the recommendation to decriminalise consensual adult sexual violence.

On the former Mr MacAskill said,

 "The Commission made a clear distinction between non-consensual or adult predatory sexual behaviour and consensual sexual activity between older children and we have recognised that distinction. But having considered the proposal to decriminalise sexual intercourse between 13-15 year olds, and the various consultation responses, we have decided against such a change. The law must continue to make clear that society does not encourage sex between children, as it can be a cause for concern for a child's welfare, even where apparently consensual."