You can choose whether or not to report what has happened to the police. For some people, reporting their attacker and seeking justice is very important. Other people do not want to tell anyone at all, far less report to the police. It may help to talk about any concerns before making a decision. If you need any help with making an informed decision you can talk it over with us and can do this anonymously.
If you already know that you want to report to the police, do this as soon as possible after the incident. This is because the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that some evidence may get damaged or lost. If you’re not sure, you may choose to go to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (currently Archway in Glasgow Archway (sandyford.org)), where they will have the facilities to collect and store evidence if you decide you want to report later. If you decide to have a medical examination, there is still no obligation to report to the police if you decide you do not want to.
If the assault happened some time ago, you can still report it to the police. Some people do not report until years later. There may still be evidence to help the police continue with an investigation.
More useful information is here: Report a sexual crime or rape? – Police Scotland
The Police will investigate your report thoroughly and, where there is evidence available to support your complaint, will report the case to the Procurator Fiscal (PF). If insufficient evidence is gathered to charge the person responsible, this does not mean the Police do not believe you.
The case will be referred to the PF’s ‘Victim Information and Advice (VIA) Service’, who will keep you up to date with the progress of the case and you can also contact them for information about your case or the criminal justice process.
Once the case has been fully investigated, specialist sexual offences prosecutors will decide whether there are to be criminal proceedings. If they decide to take no further action in your case, it does not mean that you have not been believed. It may be that there is not enough evidence for the case to proceed to court. We can help you with all of these stages of the justice process, to explain any procedures, advocate on your behalf and attend court with you.
Once a decision has been made to prosecute the case, the case will be prepared for trial. If the trial is going ahead, you will receive notification that you must appear as a witness to give evidence for the prosecution. If the accused pleads guilty you will not have to go to court to give evidence. VIA will keep you informed about all proceedings.
If the accused is remanded in custody, the trial has to call in court within 140 days. If the accused is on bail, the trial has to call within a year. It is possible for these periods to be extended and for trials to be adjourned to another date, but you should be kept informed about any changes.
There are 3 possible verdicts in Scotland – guilty, not guilty or not proven. To find someone guilty of a criminal offence, the jury has to be satisfied that the case has been proved beyond reasonable doubt. A verdict of ‘not guilty’ or ‘not proven’ does not mean that you have not been believed. It may mean that looking at all the evidence in the case, the jury was not satisfied that the case was proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Click here to find out more about support through the criminal justice system.