Victims of rape will now be able to access legal aid to stop their medical records being unnecessarily accessed by opposing lawyers in court.
MSPs today approved a change to the law which should provide more legal protection for victims, something the Scottish Conservatives have campaigned on repeatedly.
Prior to the change, if a victim of rape wanted to stop an opposing legal team accessing her medical files, she would have to pay for a lawyer herself to attend a pre-trial hearing.
It meant many victims were unable to do so, and prompted concern among rape charities that it resulted in victims being discredited in the courtroom with sensitive and irrelevant information.
Now that legal aid can be secured, a victim can have a lawyer in place from the very start of proceedings.
Scottish Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell, convener of Holyrood’s justice committee, said:
“This move is welcome and long overdue.
“It was clearly wrong that victims of rape could be so easily discredited in court by legal teams who could access their medical records.
“Now that these women can claim legal aid to stop that happening, it makes the whole system that little bit fairer.
“A woman brave enough to go to court under these circumstances should not have to worry about sensitive information being unfairly accessed.
“This is a positive change to the law to stop rape victims being discredited, and one we’ve been campaigning on for some time.
“The only pity is that despite numerous attempts at amendments to legislation, voted down by the SNP Government, it took a court decision to force the Scottish Government’s hand in changing the law today.
“Nonetheless this is extremely good news.”
Notes to editors:
For more on the legislation, visit:
The Scottish Conservatives called for the change more than three years ago: