Lord Advocate announces review of diversion from prosecution for sexual offences

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC has ordered a review of how prosecutors deal with diversion from prosecution in cases of serious sexual offences such as rape. 

The review is in recognition of the profound impact of such crimes upon victims. As the independent head of the prosecution service, the Lord Advocate has expressed her deep concern for those impacted by sexual crimes and her determination to improve their experience of the criminal justice system. 

Diversion from prosecution is one of a range of community justice interventions prosecutors will consider. Its application is guided by the Scottish Prosecution Code and its use for offenders under 18 is in keeping with our obligations to children in terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 

In diversion, an offender is referred by COPFS to local authority social work services or a partner agency for support, treatment, or other action to address the underlying causes of the alleged offending and prevent further criminality. 

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC said: 

“Sexual offences are among the most difficult cases prosecutors deal with. I am acutely aware of the trauma experienced by victims and their loved ones. As public prosecutors, we are trusted to make appropriate decisions and must uphold the trust placed in us.  

“Diversion can be an appropriate intervention to prevent perpetrators re-offending which, in turn, builds towards a safer society for all. Addressing needs which have contributed to offending behaviour is in the interest of the wider community. Such intervention can be particularly effective in cases of children’s offending, changing the direction of young lives for the better. 

“I have instructed this review as there is a responsibility on COPFS and criminal justice partners to ensure that diversion is being used appropriately. The review is timely in ensuring we are continuing to consider the rights of children under UNCRC guidance.” 

“The review will engage with victims and listen closely to their views.  It will also involve our partners across the criminal justice system.  Justice for victims will always remain the focus of what we do.” 

COPFS will publish revised guidance on diversion for sexual offences in the Prosecution Code in due course.