Equal Opportunities Committee
Tuesday 14 March 2000
[THE CONVENER opened the meeting at
(Kate Maclean): We will start. Nora Radcliffe, Jamie McGrigor and Irene
McGugan will be late and Tricia Marwick has tendered her apologies. I welcome
Maureen Macmillan to the committee. She has a particular interest in violence
against women and is the reporter on domestic violence to the Justice and
Home Affairs Committee.
First, I move that item 8 on the agenda
be taken in private. Is that agreed?
Members indicated agreement.
Violence against Women
The Convener: I invite the first
set of witnesses, who are from the Scottish rape crisis network, to take
their seats. We will hear evidence from Cara Gillespie and Sandy Brindley,
whose paper was sent out to members earlier in the week.
I welcome the witnesses to the committee.
My name is Kate Maclean and I am the committee's convener. I understand
that you, Cara, will lead off. Sandy, you should feel free to come in at
any point. Afterwards, I am sure that members of the committee will want
to ask questions.
Cara Gillespie (Scottish Rape Crisis
Network): Good morning. Thank you for inviting us to give evidence.
My name is Cara Gillespie. I am a worker at Edinburgh rape crisis centre.
On my right is my colleague, Sandy Brindley, who works for Strathclyde
rape crisis centre.
I will begin by highlighting some of the
key issues in relation to the nature and prevalence of violence against
women in Scotland. I will follow that with some information about the rape
crisis movement. Sandy Brindley will then give her input on issues relating
to the criminal justice system. I ask members to refer to our written evidence
for a more detailed outline of what we will say today.
As we speak, the first national rape crisis
leaflet paid for by the Scottish Executive is being launched by Jackie
Baillie in Stirling. That is an historic occasion. To my knowledge, it
is the first time that rape crisis centres in Scotland have received any
kind of dedicated support from central Government. It is important to note
||although the leaflet
is being paid for, our services are not. There is no centrally funded provision
to ensure that support is available to the women who will read those leaflets
and who take the difficult decision to make a call for help.
Last year, Scottish rape crisis centres
supported more than 3,000 women and girls. We know that that is the tip
of the iceberg. In 1998, a pilot study by Strathclyde rape crisis centre
showed that only one in 10 callers were able to get through. If that is
the case across the country, it suggests that tens of thousands more women
out there are unable to access support because services are overloaded.
Despite more than 20 years of campaigning
and awareness raising by the women's movement, rape and abuse remain taboo
subjects, shrouded by secrecy and silence in our society. Women who use
our services cite experiences of a range of forms of sexual violence, including
child sexual violence, rape and sexual assault. Sexual violence is embedded
in our culture. If people doubt that, they should try to name one other
form of crime or human rights violation for which the victim is regularly
held responsible, not only by the perpetrator, but by society.
Women and girls who speak out about their
experiences are still likely to be blamed for what has happened, even if
they were children at the time of the abuse. Women are still likely not
to be believed; the fear of being branded a liar prevents many women from
coming forward for help.
In recent years, great work has been done
to combat those problems but, like funding for rape crisis centres, such
work has been patchy and inconsistent. As a nation, we still seem to be
unable to make up our minds whether we want to deal with the issue. Given
that context, it is unsurprising that women who survive abuse in any of
its forms seem to be expected to deal with it alone.
That is reflected in funding for our services.
We are dependent on voluntary donations to provide basic necessities such
as travel costs and child care for women who want to come to us for support.
Our waiting lists are often lengthy or closed altogether, due to the volume
of women who want our help. There is no provision whatever in some local
authority areas. To take one example, Edinburgh rape crisis centre struggles
to offer a service to women from East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian,
the Borders and Fife, as well as from Edinburgh city.
We receive regular inquiries from workers
in other agencies, including social workers and health professionals, who
want to refer women to us. They all cite abuse as being at the root of
a range of other problems, such as mental ill health, alcoholism, drug
abuse, homelessness and so on.
||There is widespread
provision for individuals who experience those other problems, yet scarce
specialist resources to tackle the issues at their root.
Recent attempts by the Government to take
a lead role in tackling violence are welcome. It is unhelpful, however,
to single out one form of sexual violence and to prioritise it over another,
as has happened with domestic abuse. Evelyn Gillan from the Zero Tolerance
Trust will talk about the links between forms of sexual violence in more
detail. At least 25 per cent of the women who come to us have experienced
more than one form of violence in their lives.
We urge the committee to move for coherent,
practical action on violence against women and ask for that to be reflected
in adequate, on-the-ground provision for support services.
Thank you for listening. I will hand over
to Sandy Brindley, who will talk about criminal justice.
The Convener: Thank you.
Sandy Brindley (Rape Crisis Network):
My name is Sandy Brindley. I have been a worker with Strathclyde rape crisis
centre for around six years. During that time, I have spoken to a significant
number of women who have felt incredibly let down by the legal system,
which they believed was supposed to protect them after their experience
of rape, abuse or sexual assault.
The number of women who report rape and
sexual assault is very low. In the past year, of the women who contacted
our organisation, 78 per cent did not report the incident to the police.
Recent studies suggest that only 10 per cent of incidents of rape or sexual
assault are reported by women. Moreover, only about 9 per cent of reported
rapes lead to a conviction, according to the most recent figures.
In the past month, I have spoken to two
women who are going through the criminal justice system, both of whom said
that they would advise a woman who had just been raped not to report the
incident. I also spoke to a female officer in a female and child unit-a
specialist unit for the investigation of sexual offences-who said that
if she were raped she would not report the incident.
Women who go through the criminal justice
system experience the process as a violation. Women who have been raped
spend around six hours in a police station, often immediately after the
rape, which is a traumatic experience. It is likely that women will be
examined by a male police casualty surgeon-they do not have the guaranteed
option to choose to be examined by a female. If the procurator fiscal decides
to proceed with the case, which does not happen in the majority of cases,
women can expect to wait for up
||to a year for the
case to be heard, with the court case hanging over them. During that time,
in most cases, the accused is released on bail.
During the court case-if things get that
far-women face aggressive cross-examination by the defence; that is fairly
commonplace in rape and sexual assault trials. Women say that they feel
very much as though they are on trial and that they go through with the
process only on the slim chance of seeing justice done.
In recent years, significant improvements
have been made in police responses to complaints of sexual assault or rape.
However, in our experience, work still needs to be done to ensure a consistent,
positive response, which should be based on good practice-for example,
there is still a lack of female police surgeons.
Women also report that they have been threatened
with the charge of wasting police time-indeed, some have been charged-if
they decide that they cannot go through with the case, despite the fact
that that may be due to intimidation by the defendant's friends or family.
The myth that women make false complaints
appears to persist, which can lead some officers to approach interviews
with women with a view to proving, or disproving, that they are lying.
For example, it may be put to a woman who presents to the police with severe
injuries that she simply regrets having had rough sex with her boyfriend.
Such comments to women who have just been raped are still being made in
Concrete steps could be taken that would
lead to a significant improvement of women's experience of police procedures.
Some excellent recommendations were made in the recent Convention of Scottish
Local Authorities document on violence against women, but we understand
that few steps have been taken to implement those recommendations.
A further example that we want to raise
on the police response to women who have been raped or sexually abused
is that of women who have been raped by policemen and how the judicial
system handles such cases. We are supporting two women in Scotland who
have been raped by policemen and who have found it extremely difficult
to access any form of justice. In our opinion, part of that difficulty
is that, when a woman complains of rape by a policeman, the case is investigated
by the force that employs that policeman. We would like a review of that
On the legal system, our view is that the
common-law definition of rape does not reflect
||most women's experiences.
The common law defines rape as
"carnal knowledge of a woman by a male
obtained by overcoming her will"
by penetration of a woman's vagina by a
man's penis. That definition excludes anal rape, oral rape and penetration
by objects. In the case of women who are raped while sleeping, the law
judges them unable actively to withhold their consent, which means that
charges of rape cannot be brought.
The time leading up to the trial can be
lengthy, with many delays. The amount of information that is given to women
about the progress of their case is not consistent throughout Scotland.
For example, in some areas of Scotland, a woman might not even be informed
if the case is not proceeding. She might expect to go to court within a
month, in order to meet the time bar of a year, as she has not been told
that the procurator fiscal has decided not to proceed with the case. Women
can experience powerlessness in the criminal justice process.
Women have described the trial in a rape
or sexual assault case as like being raped again. In several recent cases
that have received publicity, women have been cross-examined by the defendant-that
is, by the man who raped them. We believe that that should not happen and
that it is symbolic of the violation that women experience during such
Sexual history and sexual character evidence
is often introduced by defence lawyers in an attempt to discredit women's
credibility and testimony. The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland)
Act 1985 introduced in 1986 the aim of limiting the use of such evidence.
However, women still contact rape crisis centres to relate ordeals where
defence lawyers introduce such evidence to discredit them. In 1992, the
Scottish Office commissioned research that found that evidence on sexual
history or sexual character was introduced in around half the jury trials
of sexual offence cases. In a significant minority of cases, that evidence
was introduced without reference to the legislation-that is, the legislation
The Scottish Office research provided useful
evidence of what happens in rape trials. Talking about the need for education
about what women have to go through, the research stated:
"Perhaps it should be generally known that
the defence routinely try to besmirch complainers-"
that is, women who make complaints of rape-
"to call them liars, to bring in irrelevant
evidence, to seize on any aspect of their sexuality that can be found,
and to construct motives for false allegations".
Research and anecdotal evidence received
||women who contact
rape crisis centres gives a clear picture of the shortcomings both of the
legislation on sexual history evidence and of the implementation-or lack
of implementation-of that legislation in our courts. Clear recommendations
have been made, which, as far as we understand, have gone nowhere.
We believe that there is a clear and urgent
need for review of the criminal justice system as it relates to sexual
offences. We have made recommendations on the steps that we would like
to be considered as part of any such review. Those recommendations are
in our written evidence to the Equal Opportunities Committee.
We believe that the Scottish Executive
and Scottish society must take, as a starting point, the fact that 91 per
cent of women who are raped or sexually assaulted and have the courage
to report the incident to the police receive no justice and no protection
from our legal system.
The Convener: Thank you, Sandy.
I open out the discussion to members for questions or comments.
Maureen Macmillan (Highlands and Islands)
(Lab): We had a big rape case in Inverness recently, which was well
handled because we have a woman procurator fiscal who is extremely supportive
of rape victims. However, I have spoken to her about resources and the
low rate of reporting by victims. Inverness is the only place in the Highlands
and Islands that has a safe house or refuge where rape victims can be taken.
In all other cases, the woman and the man who is the alleged perpetrator
of the crime are taken to the same police station. They might even meet
each other in the corridor, because there will be only one room for examinations.
I believe that there is only one female police surgeon in the Highlands
and Islands-as one can imagine, it is difficult to retain female police
surgeons in remote areas.
There is a fundamental misconception that
rape is a sexual offence; in fact, it is an offence that is based on power.
The establishment treats rape as though it were a sexual offence and so
often questions the woman's sexual character. I think that we should change
fundamentally the definition of rape in law. I do not want to make a speech,
but do you agree with that proposal?
Are you able to go to schools to talk to
pupils about rape, or is that a no-go area for the educational establishment?
Sandy Brindley: That depends on
the good will and interest of the head teacher and the guidance to staff
in individual schools-there is no strategic programme of education or awareness
raising for young people by rape crisis centres. That is disappointing,
given the recent research carried out by the Zero Tolerance Trust, which
||a significant number
of young women and young men thought that it was okay to rape a woman or
to force her to have sex under certain circumstances. I agree that important
work must be carried out, but resources must be made available for that
Cara Gillespie: Maureen Macmillan
was absolutely correct when she talked about the legal definition of rape
and said that it was about power. We think that it is important that there
should be no differentiation between forms of violence. We should consider
the cross-cutting issues, which are invariably about power.
Lamont (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab): You will know that part of the context
in which you are giving evidence is our examination of the way in which
women are treated by the legal system as vulnerable witnesses. The Scottish
Executive is progressing an action plan, following the consultation paper
"Towards a Just Conclusion", which dealt with vulnerable witnesses. What
main recommendations do you want to come out of the action plan? You have
touched on many points, but what, for you, are the key issues about the
way in which women are treated in court when they make allegations of sexual
You talked about the shockingly low rate
of reported crime and the low number of convictions in the tiny percentage
of cases that are reported. Has any work been done on whether a judgment
on the nature of the offence is made when the decision whether to prosecute
is taken? Are cases less likely to be pursued if the woman knew the person
who assaulted her and are they more likely to be pursued if the perpetrator
is a stranger? In some cases, we hear that there was supposedly no rape
at all because the woman knew the perpetrator and so on. Is the decision
not to prosecute entirely random?
Sandy Brindley: A piece of research
carried out in England and Wales last year addressed the specific issue
of whether so-called date rape is less likely to lead to criminal proceedings
or to a conviction. That research found a high attrition rate in cases
where women knew their assailant-those cases either were not getting to
court or had a low conviction rate.
We submitted a full response to the consultation
document on the review of the treatment of vulnerable witnesses. We would
like serious consideration to be given to the introduction of special prosecutors
for sexual offences. Such posts have been introduced in some states in
America and have had a significant impact on conviction rates. The advantage
of introducing special prosecutors for such crimes is that prosecutors
can build up experience and expertise and meet women before the trial,
which does not happen at present and which is central to building
||up a strong case.
Another advantage would be that the prosecutors might take a more active
role in trying to intervene when, during the cross-examination of the victim,
defence lawyers introduce irrelevant evidence about the victim's sexual
history. At present, there is a danger that no one will intervene when
defence lawyers introduce such evidence, because no one sees it as their
role to do so.
Johann Lamont: Do you agree with
the idea of establishing special courts, so that the whole system is geared
to recognising the vulnerability of certain witnesses? Those courts might
also deal with child abuse cases and so on.
Sandy Brindley: Many different attempts,
some of which have been more successful than others, have been made in
different countries and states to deal with the problems that we face in
Scotland in terms of women's experience of the legal system and the low
conviction rate. We should take as our starting point the fact that urgent
change is required, followed by sustained review of procedures that would
work in Scotland and those that would not work. Women's views should be
integrated into that process.
Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab): Johann Lamont raised a
topical point. Partly because of her work and partly because of the work
of the SNP's Gil Paterson, the Executive has pledged to report back on
"Towards a Just Conclusion" by the end of April, so there is a live debate
about vulnerable witnesses.
Did you think that "Towards a Just Conclusion"
was a helpful document? I remember that Lilly Greenan, of Edinburgh rape
crisis, said at the time that it was disappointing in comparison to the
measures that were being offered in England and that have now been passed
into law. Do you agree with her views?
Cara Gillespie: That is not my area
of expertise, as I focus much more on service provision.
Sandra Brindley: However, we agree
that it was a disappointing document, because it made assertions that we
found startling. For example, it said that there were no problems for witnesses
who gave evidence in sexual assault trials. It was also disappointing that,
in arriving at that conclusion, the working group had not consulted organisations
that support women who are going through the criminal justice process and
women themselves. If they had been consulted, the working group would have
had great difficulty in arriving at that conclusion.
We will be interested to see what comes
out of the document, particularly in relation to the responses by organisations
such as the rape crisis network.
Cara, you referred to a leaflet that is being published today-you have
knowledge that we do not have. What exactly is that leaflet? Was your point
that the leaflet was being funded but that the services were not?
That is correct. Around the time that a lot of work was being done on domestic
abuse, the Scottish Executive published a leaflet raising awareness of
the domestic abuse services that were available in Scotland. One of our
centres approached the Executive and said, "Hang on a minute. What about
all the other services for women that we need to be publicising out there?"
We managed to get agreement to fund the production of the leaflet, which
is being launched today in Stirling by Jackie Baillie.
Malcolm Chisholm: The leaflet will
refer to Edinburgh rape crisis centre and all the other rape crisis centres.
Might we expect that those will become better known and be used even more
than they are already?
Cara Gillespie: We certainly hope
so, particularly if we can use the distribution networks that have been
made available to get leaflets right across Scotland to police forces,
health services and all the places where we want them to be.
Malcolm Chisholm: What combinations
of funding do different rape crisis centres have? Are they different in
Cara Gillespie: Our funding is outlined
in more detail in our written evidence. Some centres receive local authority
funding, mainly through the section 10 funding strand, which is available
to voluntary organisations. Edinburgh rape crisis centre receives the biggest
chunk of money-about £30,000 a year, which is enough to fund one
salary and to make some contribution to running costs. Some centres receive
radically smaller amounts of funding from local authorities. Aberdeen rape
crisis centre, for example, receives £2,500, which pays part of its
rent. Some centres are funded primarily by the unemployed voluntary action
fund, whereas others receive lottery funding. The majority are heavily
dependent on voluntary donations.
Malcolm Chisholm: Would you like
to see a central fund, similar to the domestic abuse fund?
Cara Gillespie: Absolutely. We need
to consider how much of this work should be a statutory responsibility-how
much of the work we want to be done as part of creating a civil society
in Scotland. The effects of abuse are so widespread and increasingly well
documented that shirking responsibility for these women must be regarded
as a real failing by our state.
Maureen Macmillan reminded us that rape is really about power. Would
you like to comment on the dreadful book that came out recently and took
a different view?
Cara Gillespie: I cannot remember
which American feminist responded to it, but she made a very important
point. Obviously, we dismiss the views that were expressed in the book;
we are concerned about how dangerous it is for them to be in the public
domain, where people may be swayed by them. However, one of the most worrying
things is that the authors can now set themselves up as expert witnesses
in high-profile rape cases in the United States. The negative effect of
the book is compounded by the potential negative effect of the views that
it contains being used as expert testimony in rape cases.
Tommy Sheridan (Glasgow) (SSP): Cara,
do you share my concern that you will experience a difficulty similar to
the one that the zero tolerance campaign has had over the past few years,
in that the increase in your profile that will result from the launch of
this national leaflet-which is very welcome-will highlight even more the
problems that you face when providing a service?
I find it incredible that a survey in 1998
indicated that only one in 10 of the women who call you get through first
time. A crisis centre demands to be funded properly, so that people who
are in a crisis get to speak to somebody, rather than to an answering machine.
I hope that the rape crisis network will continue to pursue statutory funding.
As a councillor, I know that section 10 funding is the easiest for councils
to cut. Glasgow City Council recently cut £174,000 from section 10
funding, which will affect many of the services that you have mentioned.
Do you see it as your role to pursue statutory funding for rape crisis
centres as a priority through the Scottish Parliament?
Cara Gillespie: That is certainly
one of the things that we will be pursuing. Like many other organisations,
we have been battering against a door for many years, so that now that
it has been opened we are in danger of falling over the threshold. We have
a great deal of infrastructure building to do, in terms of fund raising
and accessing resources. One of our main action points as part of that
will be to pursue statutory funding.
I hope that we can assist you to make the case for statutory funding
for the service.
When the COSLA guidance on tackling violence
against women was launched, it was regarded as a breath of fresh air and
as a document that had taken on board views from across Scotland. Why has
it not been implemented?
Sandy Brindley: That is a very good
||which we have raised
in the different agency forums in which we are involved. There is no point
in inventing new guidelines, as the COSLA guidelines already exist, were
subject to wide consultation and would make a significant difference to
women who are experiencing any form of sexual violence. We would like organisations
such as the police to give a stated commitment that they accept the guidelines
and are looking to implement them. At the moment, that is not happening.
Tommy Sheridan: Convener, I hope
that the committee will agree to make representations to the Executive
about implementation of the COSLA guidelines, as that would maintain a
focus on the issue and, I hope, encourage it to get moving.
Shona Robison (North-East Scotland)
(SNP): I support Tommy Sheridan's call for us to ask questions about
why the COSLA guidelines have not been implemented. Have any of the COSLA
guidelines been implemented to any extent?
Sandy Brindley: There has not been
a strategic review of the guidelines' implementation, so it is very difficult
to see how far implementation has proceeded at a national level. I welcome
the suggestion that the Executive should take a lead in recommending implementation
of the guidelines.
Shona Robison: Was no strategic
review mechanism set up when the guidelines were announced?
Sandy Brindley: A review was built
into the initial process, but there has been no long-term review of implementation.
Shona Robison: During your presentation
you talked about the police complaints procedure. Did your organisation
feed into the consultation process for the Macpherson report?
Sandy Brindley: For some years we
have been raising the issue of the police complaints procedure, particularly
with regard to rape by policemen. We understand that it is being reviewed
at present. We hope to feed into that consultation. We have written to
various ministers who have responsibility for the consultation to express
our interest in being involved. We have also arranged a meeting with Jackie
Baillie to discuss our concerns. We hope that we will be able to represent
the concerns that women are expressing to us and to feed them into the
Maureen Macmillan: I want to return
to the criminal justice system and your relationship with the police. Do
the police ever call you in when they are dealing with a rape case, to
give support to the victim? Presumably there is variation across the country,
but how often does that happen? What
you have with other victim support services such as Women's Aid and Victim
Support? Do you find that you are all doing your own thing, or is there
co-operation between you?
Sandy Brindley: Whether we are called
in to give support in rape cases depends on individual police stations
or female-and-child units. All should have our details and leaflets, which
they ought to pass on to women as a matter of course. Again, there are
problems with resources. As Tommy Sheridan pointed out, for every woman
who gets through to us, 10 women are unable to. If we are to respond effectively
to women who are going through the criminal justice process, we must be
resourced to do that.
We are involved, with various networks
and working groups, with other organisations such as Women's Aid, SAY Women
and Zero Tolerance. Over the past few years, we have been concerned that
only a limited pot of money is available for this area of work, which forces
equally essential organisations to compete against one other for funding.
We are very reluctant to see that happen, as we believe that it is essential
that women should have access to organisations such as Women's Aid and
Maureen Macmillan: How would you
feel about the criminal justice system having a pot of money that enabled
it to buy in services such as yours when it was felt that a woman needed
support? I put that suggestion to a procurator fiscal, who was quite keen
on it provided the money was available. Could you see yourselves going
down that road?
Cara Gillespie: That would raise
fundamental issues about our practice and service provision. Women contact
us themselves-we do not operate a directive service that involves our deciding
that a women needs our help. We would prefer women to choose whether to
approach us for help. Having said that, all suggestions should be on the
table for discussion and dialogue.
I want to respond to a point that was made
earlier about the criminal justice system. We provide local police forces
with regular training, which extends to specialist officers and ordinary
constables. However, provision is patchy across Scotland and some forces
have a better relationship with their local rape crisis centre than others.
Over the years, we have also provided victim support groups with a great
deal of training. Our expertise is in danger of being hijacked. Obviously,
we want to prevent that.
Maureen Macmillan: Sometimes, if
your expertise is hijacked by other organisations, it can be diluted.
Cara Gillespie: That is correct.
We have specialist knowledge of and a unique approach to the issues-as
has Women's Aid. It is important
||that those are
Elaine Smith (Coatbridge and Chryston)
(Lab): I want to follow up Maureen Macmillan's question about your
relationship with other organisations. What do you think about establishing
women's centres in major towns and cities, where the different organisations
could all be sited? Is that idea worth considering, or would different
organisations want to retain their separate identities? At the moment,
organisations are each paying rent and rates on different buildings.
Cara Gillespie: There are women's
centres in many towns and cities across Scotland. The idea that they could
serve as umbrella organisations for all the different groups has much to
commend it, but there are problems of confidentiality that would need to
be worked through. We and Women's Aid prefer to keep the addresses of our
premises confidential, so that potentially violent partners or those who
have abused women cannot find them. Women's Aid has confidential refuges
and we prefer to not to publicise the address of our office, to which women
come for support. Women do not necessarily want to be identified approaching
a particular building.
Sandy Brindley: There are advantages
and disadvantages to the one-stop approach, which I know has been tried
in some parts of England and in other countries. There may be reasons for
a women not wanting to approach a particular organisation-her sister may
work there, for example. There are definite advantages in having separate
organisations that are autonomous; the more options a woman has, the greater
is the possibility of her being able to access the support she is looking
Cara Gillespie: We have considered
other arrangements in the past. We would love to develop a one-stop service
for women to be examined by the forensic examiner on rape crisis premises
and with a rape crisis worker present. We have engaged in negotiations
with the local genito-urinary medicine clinic, to examine options such
as that. We would definitely be interested in those kinds of crossover
Johann Lamont: I hope that this
committee will make a strong statement on funding, for two reasons. First,
the leaflet is generating work for you but we are not providing the means
for you to deliver support. Secondly, my impression is that women are more
likely to approach an organisation that is not closely identified with
the statutory organisations. I presume that statutory organisations will
refer people to you through social work departments, so the responsibility
||passed, to some
extent, without extra funding being allocated. I hope that this committee
will say something specific on that issue. I presume that you receive many
referrals in that way.
In your evidence, you say:
"Over 50% of the women who contacted us
in 1999 were benefit dependent."
All the evidence suggests that violence
against women knows no class boundaries-it is not just poor women who are
attacked and assaulted.
Cara Gillespie: No, absolutely not.
Johann Lamont: Does that mean that
the experience of rape and sexual assault begins to impact so much on their
lives that women are less able to support themselves economically, or does
it mean that there are other support structures for women who happen to
be in work?
Cara Gillespie: It is important
to be clear about this. You are correct in saying that there are no class
boundaries in relation to this issue. Rape and sexual assault have a severe
impact on women's self-esteem and self-confidence and on their ability
to take their place in the world. That may, in turn, have an impact on
their employment possibilities. I am not aware of whether any research
has been conducted into that issue. Our statistic reflects the fact that
we offer a free service and are therefore more accessible to women who
are on low incomes or who are benefit dependent.
Women who are on higher incomes or who
have more resources available to them are able to access private counselling.
That is where the remaining 40 per cent or so of women are going.
Johann Lamont: It would therefore
be part of the Government's social inclusion strategy. One of the difficulties
with the social inclusion strategy is that it is geographically based.
I presume that it is very difficult for you to access locally based funding.
A Glasgow organisation, for example, would find it difficult to access
moneys from the different social inclusion partnerships that operate in
I have one final question, on training.
You talked about the lack of women doctors to examine victims of sexual
assault. Are you involved with people who are going through medical training,
either doctors or nurses? How receptive is the medical profession to ideas
about the kind of training that you want to develop?
Sandy Brindley: For the past few
weeks, we have been trying to clarify whether the police casualty surgeons
who carry out medical examinations receive specialist training. There seems
to be some confusion about whether there is any specialist training for
general practitioners who carry out the role of police casualty surgeon.
||Our rape crisis
centre, which covers Strathclyde, has no input whatsoever into the training
of police casualty surgeons-not for want of trying.
Cara Gillespie: Part of your question
concerned our relationship with the medical profession-is that correct?
Johann Lamont: Yes. I am interested
to know the extent to which the medical profession acknowledges that it
has something to learn about the way to deal with women who report sexual
abuse and require to be examined.
Cara Gillespie: In the practical
sense that Sandy mentioned, there is a huge amount to be gained. We provide
training for clinical psychology students and a variety of other people
in the medical profession. There are fundamental differences in our approach
to rape and abuse. The medical profession pursues a medical approach towards
women who survive violence, whereas we pursue a different, impairment model.
We do not consider the women as displaying symptoms in any sense-we adopt
a completely different perspective on it. There are differences in our
approaches but that can be a good thing, as it provides a range of options
for women: they can choose their approach and can access the kinds of services
that they think will help them best.
Sandy Brindley: We would welcome
the development of that at a strategic level. The service is patchy and
depends on the interest and good will of individual departments and organisations,
or on their recognition of the role of the rape crisis centre.
There is a clear need in the health service
for direct training on dealing with issues of sexual violence, as some
women's experiences are negative: they have approached their GPs after
having been raped and the automatic response has been the prescription
of anti-depressants, which is often not the most effective response. Women
also find that their reactions are medicalised and that they are labelled
as having personality disorders if they harm themselves. That shows a lack
of awareness of the effects and impact of sexual violence. We would like
there to be more training in the treatment of those women.
The Convener: The final question
will come from Tommy Sheridan.
Tommy Sheridan: I invite Sandy to
comment on a point that Maureen Macmillan made. If there was agreement
for the criminal justice system to purchase services from organisations
such as yours, would that not militate against the excellent proposal to
develop prosecutors and to consider special courts? My worry is that those
services would become an adjunct, or poor cousin, in the legal system.
What you really want is for them to become part of the legal system and
in prosecution and the way in which prosecution is carried out. Do you
agree with that?
Sandy Brindley: Yes, I agree that
there would be real difficulties in going down that funding route. We would
have to take on a campaigning and awareness-raising role in highlighting
the difficulties that women experience in the criminal justice system.
We would much rather consider the option of centralised funding or specific
funding for essential services for women who experience violence.
A lot of good work has been undertaken
by the Scottish Executive and the Government in relation to violence against
women, particularly domestic abuse. However, high-profile campaigns are
often not backed up by the resources to meet the increase in demand for
women's services. Campaigns increase women's awareness and highlight their
concerns, but are not always able to access the support that is crucial.
The Convener: Thanks very much for
giving evidence to the committee. We will discuss ways in which we can
develop, in a practical way, the issues that have been raised today-which
will no doubt be raised by other witnesses as well. I hope that the committee
will contact you in the future, if we feel that you can assist us in that
The third item on the agenda is evidence
from SAY Women. I welcome Rosina McCrae, whom I have known for many years,
and another witness who wants to remain anonymous. I ask members of the
public and press to respect her wishes. Rosina will read out a statement
from the witness, which she would find too upsetting to read out herself,
and the witness will then try to answer questions.
Rosina McCrae (SAY Women): Thank
you. I shall touch on the evidence that we have already submitted to the
committee before I read out the statement from Ms Y, which is the most
The point was made by rape crisis, and
will be reinforced by Zero Tolerance, that this issue has been forced into
the public domain by the campaigning of the women's movement. We are pleased
with the resources that are being allocated to work on domestic violence,
but I would like to emphasise the fact that women and children face many
forms of violence. The sexual abuse of children is the issue that our society
finds most difficult to deal with, partly because the crime is surrounded
by secrecy and because the abuser locks the child into complicity and responsibility
that reinforce the survivor's sense of guilt and shame. It is important
to acknowledge the strategies that children take to avoid abuse, which
are not often recognised.
||The press's recent
focus on abuse in care runs the risk of deflecting attention from abuse
within the family unit. Many survivors have been abused in the family unit.
Much progress has been made recently in child protection, but we want to
emphasise the fact that resources are lacking for the survivors-particularly
the adult survivors-of abuse. I shall highlight several issues in our report,
on which we hope to secure the committee's support.
We stress the fact that not all the survivors
are in need of help; many are strong, capable and independent adults. However,
as a result of the circumstances that affect us all, we deal with some
of the most vulnerable young women. The statistics are in our report. We
want to highlight the importance of funding, which has implications for
our resources. It has been difficult for SAY Women to stay afloat; we have
relied on the philanthropy of Victorians, rather than the statutory sector,
to keep us alive, although we have made progress recently.
The importance of a coherent strategy in
dealing with abuse will be highlighted in Ms Y's statement. Such a strategy
is especially important in the health service, as its approach is not supportive
of our young tenants, particularly when dealing with the self-harm and
overdosing that feature highly in the lives of survivors of child sexual
abuse. Similarly, survivors face difficulties in the criminal justice system.
Finally, the recent report "Where is she tonight?", from the Glasgow routes
out of prostitution SIP, has highlighted the need for specialist single-sex
accommodation. Women are particularly vulnerable in mixed-sex hostels.
I would now like to move on to Ms Y's statement.
I ask the committee to admire her courage and respect the fact that it
may be difficult for her to revisit her memories of abuse. At times, she
may not be able to respond, but we will do the best we can for the committee.
As part of its consultation process, the Parliament might consider allowing
survivors to give evidence in a less formal setting.
The following is Ms Y's statement.
"I was brought up in a small community
with a violent father who regularly beat my mum and the children. He was
put in prison for 31/2 yrs (he got a 7 year sentence, only did 31/2 yrs)
for sexually abusing my older sister. He was allowed back into our house
with supposed to be supervision. He started to sexually abuse me and I
found out years later that he also abused my 2 younger sisters. I managed
to tell someone who informed the social work and police. We were taken
into care, 4 of us. My father totally manipulated the whole family at this
time where the rest of my family didn't speak to me. My mum I felt turned
against me and I wasn't believed. He was a very powerful man and I am still
scared of him even although I don't see him. He
||finally years later
went to the High Court on charges against myself, my older sister (who
spoke out years later, the one he abused in the first place), my 2 younger
sisters. He got not guilty. I felt let down by the justice system, feeling
yet again not believed when I was telling the truth. I got criminal injuries
money which must of proved something.
We all stayed in care, my father continually
going to courts to get his children back but thankfully he didn't get them.
My younger sisters are still in care, at least they're safe from him. But
to me he's a free man, he can keep abusing again until he's caught. That
worries me so much because I know how I feel and if I could stop him abusing
1 more child, I would but I don't have that power.
It's mad there is now the sex offenders
list now, but what happens to the offenders from years ago, who watches
out for what they might do. They need something set up to make sure that
the ones who were convicted years ago are still kept an eye on.
I am now speaking to some of my family.
My mum stuck by my dad which upset me because I love and miss her and want
her to love me but she blames me for her losing her children to being in
care. She is in so much denial because my father has brainwashed her so
much she believes she is a useless person.
Through the abuse I am the one that is
still left with the shame of what as I see I let my father do. I blame
myself. I hate myself and my body. I have an eating disorder and I cut
myself. I have depression and I have tried to kill myself several times
when life becomes hard to cope with. I find it very hard trusting people
and don't know if I will ever lead a normal life.
I was in the Say Women project for 2 years
which really did a lot for me and they gave me a lot of emotional support
that I needed in a safe environment. More places like Say Women are so
much needed because when you have been abused you can become scared of
guys thinking they are all the same and you don't trust them, so being
in a female environment helped me and I realise now not all men are the
same but I needed to be in the safe environment to realise that. Say Women
didn't have a lot of funding so they couldn't be 24 hour accommodation
which is a pity because a lot of young women feel vulnerable at night.
I did move on a lot when I was in Say Women and I got a greater insight
into myself and how I am feeling and why. There badly needs to be more
places like it and more money needs to be put into this direction for young
women to be in single sex safe accommodation like Say Women.
Also women over 25 are still vulnerable
and still struggle with the effects of childhood sexual abuse yet 25 is
the cut off age for some specialist accommodation. Even over 25s need specialist
help. Young women in Say Women are believed and understood and they are
free from fear of violence which is so important to us.
It would be good for the young women from
Say Women after the 18 months to move on to second-stage housing where
they are in a flat but still get support from Say Women staff to help support
them and keep an eye on them. Sadly due to money Say Women can't do this
and their follow on support is short because of the staffing levels. Say
Women are limited as to what they can do or set up because of money which
is very sad because it is such a valuable service which could be expanded
to help more young women. They help you feel a more valued person than
when you first go in, if it wasn't for their support I wouldn't have moved
on as much as I have. I still have a long way to go to in beginning to
try and like myself and wanting to live instead of constantly wanting to
give up on
If Say Women had more money they could
also maybe help with training within the NHS to help them see and understand
the links of sexual abuse with someone who has cut themself or overdosed.
These people aren't attention seekers as a lot get put down as. Being abused
gives you so much low self worth that you think all you're worth is punishing
yourself by cutting, overdosing or starving yourself.
I feel the system failed me at times when
I felt I needed it to back me and if I could help fight for other people
to get a better service I will try my best. Nobody should ever be abused
in any way. Everyone should be brought up with love and be protected. Sexual
abuse is going on all the time and it is an increasing society problem
that we can't hide from. We need to look at ways of protecting children
more but also helping the ones who are the result as adults of years of
sexual abuse by providing better services in this area. More counselling
services, more money put into the services that are already successfully
set up. Also more places in Scotland without being private or long waiting
lists for people who suffer from eating disorders or self harm. Thank you."
The Convener: Thank you for reading
out the statement. Thank you, Ms Y, for coming along to such a formal setting-it
was brave of you. I will ask committee members whether they have any questions,
but if you feel that you cannot answer, or do not want to, that is fine.
Nobody will pressure you into answering questions. Does anyone have any
questions for Rosina McCrae, or for Ms Y?
Maureen Macmillan: Thank you for
coming, Ms Y. When you were in care, did you get the support that you needed?
Ms Y (SAY Women): Not really.
Maureen Macmillan: Did people realise
what you had gone through and what effect that had had on you?
Ms Y: No.
Maureen Macmillan: So there may
be room for more training for children's care workers.
Johann Lamont: It is interesting
that Rosina-correctly, I think-used the word "survivors". We should see
the women not as victims, but as survivors; that came across clearly in
what you said, and in the written evidence. They are surviving dreadful
things; our job is to find ways of supporting their courage. The fault
lies in lack of funding and so on.
I want to ask about young women's experience
of the justice system. For example, what happens when young women go to
court? What are the main things that we should try to change? We have been
considering the Scottish Office document, "Towards a Just Conclusion",
which is about the treatment of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses. What
are the main things that we should push for?
Rosina McCrae: SAY Women is an
and most of the young women with whom we deal are at the stage of thinking
about going to the justice system. Undoubtedly, the police have made progress,
but the impact on front-line services is not uniform. In a recent experience-a
child protection issue-in a female-and-child unit, one of our young survivors,
who was worried about a sibling who was still in the family home was told,
"There are two sides to every story." If that phrase is still being used
at the front line, it is hardly surprising that the young person immediately
backs off and thinks, "I'm not going any further."
I had not seen "Towards a Just Conclusion"
until Alison Taylor sent me a copy; I have not had time to read it. Our
comments would be the same as those of rape crisis and most others in the
women's movement. We need a separate court system-like a family court-because
the rules of evidence under our current system are more suited to public
crimes; it is expected that there will be witnesses because the crime takes
place in the public domain. The abuse of women and children is private,
and often there are no witnesses. We need to consider separate rules of
evidence. There are certain ways of protecting witnesses, but only when
the seriousness of the crime is taken into account and the justice system
begins to take action will abusers get the signal that their behaviour
is not acceptable to society.
Johann Lamont: What is your experience
of the children's panel system? Perhaps Ms Y can say something about the
experience that a person who is self-harming or running away has of that
system. Can the system look beyond that and support a young women whose
good, logical reason-not a medical reason-for doing such things is what
is happening in her home? Does the children's panel system need to change
Rosina McCrae: Perhaps, but we are
not involved with that system. My experience of it, years ago, was through
Women's Aid, but changes have been made since then. The woman used to be
expected to provide evidence in the same room as her abuser. There was
a lack of understanding about the power that was being exerted.
Johann Lamont: That was referred
to in Ms Y's statement. Through talking to young women, have you picked
up anecdotal evidence of the way in which the whole system allows the perpetrator
of the abuse to be quite powerful?
Rosina McCrae: As a result of the
young women's life circumstances, there tend to be wider issues by the
time they come to us. That is certainly reflected in their writing. They
can go from saying firmly that they were the victim and that they had survived
the crime, to feeling disbelieved and accused of being complicit in the
||crime; that reinforces
Our project tends to focus on stabilising
young women and getting them well. By the end of the 18 months, women are
often starting to consider taking on the justice system; until then they
are not well enough, emotionally or physically. We usually deal with homeless
organisations, the care system and social work-about 50 per cent of our
referrals have social work involvement. As Ms Y said, our energies tend
to go into dealing with issues around women's self-harm and self-blame.
It is towards the tail-end of their time with us that women start to consider
having anything to do with the system.
The Convener: Do you want to answer
any of Johann's questions, Ms Y?
Ms Y: In the court system, the cross-examination
of people who have been through this can tear them apart. Their whole evidence
can fall apart because the cross-examination is so hard for them. Maybe
something could be done about that.
Malcolm Chisholm: Why does society
find it so difficult to accept that children are at risk within the family
unit? As you say, all the emphasis is on abuses of the care system.
Rosina McCrae: As we said at the
beginning, the women's movement has drawn attention to male violence against
women and men's overall control and power within society as a whole. We
have needed legislation such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 or the
Equal Pay Act 1970. We recognise and-to an extent-can cope with the way
in which men's control and dominance impacts on the work situation and
on wider society. However, when an aspect of men's position in society
is that they abuse women and children, there are further issues to consider.
One manifestation of male power is its
impact on the most vulnerable section of our community: children. Children
have no control and no power. They do not have the physical, emotional
or material resources to deal with abuse. Children can be sexually abused
from as young as a few months old, right through their teenage years. It
is natural for us to flinch at that, and not to want to deal with it. The
courage of survivors has brought the issue into the public domain. Some
of us are fortunate enough to have been brought up in a loving, caring
family, but that background determines how we think that the rest of society
operates. It is difficult for us to accept that the cornerstone, the family
unit, can be abusive and that for many children it is not a safe haven.
Chisholm: Are there any examples of health boards, general practitioners,
primary care trusts and so on making some serious effort to address the
issue, or do you feel that the health service has not really taken it on
Rosina McCrae: In Glasgow, as you
will have heard in Ms Y's story, our young women survivors invariably end
up in hospital after taking an overdose. That is when their cutting becomes
obvious. The approach of health service staff is, "Why are you doing that?"
There is a lack of understanding that cutting is a survival mechanism;
that reinforces the survivors' feeling that they are doing wrong.
Our communications with the health service
take place very much on an individual basis; they might involve a local
psychologist. In Glasgow, we can refer directly, but that possibility has
been built up through personal contact.
The local mental health unit that services
our organisation seems to have preconceived ideas about us. Try as we might
to build bridges with it, our young tenants do not get a good service there.
We have great difficulty in accessing community psychiatric nurses, and
it has been difficult for some of our tenants to get hold of GPs. There
has been no movement at all on the subject of self-harm. The unit puts
up a kind of resistance, and that does not help the tenants.
We are aware of the health plans in the
local co-operatives, but even though we are an organisation from the east
end of Glasgow we have not been invited to any such schemes. We welcome
the fact that the Equal Opportunities Committee has asked us to give evidence,
but unless the Parliament understands the need for, and develops, a coherent
strategy that involves health and social inclusion, there will be no movement.
Without such movement, there would just be constant recycling with no means
of intervening, and that would not be cost-effective for the health service.
Organisations such as ours and the rape
crisis network, and all the other women's organisations, would be happy
to co-operate towards a more informed approach. However, we have no evidence
that such an approach is happening, apart from the fact that the health
board has shifted a significant sum of money to our organisation because
it recognised the necessity of doing so.
Aside from the strategic level, there are
women and men who understand the situation, but-as with the police-things
work only when such understanding has an impact at the grass roots.
In general, GPs are resistant to change.
The Glasgow domestic violence protocol has been hitting constant problems
just because of the lack of willingness to co-operate and to open up to
Malcolm Chisholm: As far as housing
Executive recently said-in the context of the rough sleepers initiative-that
it hoped to become more aware of all the issues. Is there any sign of that
happening with the Glasgow rough sleepers initiative, or with any other
Rosina McCrae: No. As we highlighted
in our report, referrals among homeless or drug-using women have jumped
by 37 per cent over the past few years. Under the rough sleepers initiative,
we have a post funded through the national lottery board consortium bid.
You can see the logic that makes young
people run away from home. Because of the abuse, they end up in the streets,
where they are vulnerable to prostitution and to the drugs scene.
In a sense, we are not involved. We are
not considered with regard to the social inclusion agenda or any of the
east end partnership bids. That needs to be considered when homelessness
and drugs are being tackled.
The report mentions the high prevalence
of child sexual abuse among drug users, certainly in Glasgow. At any time,
the drug workers at any agency in Glasgow will say that between 50 per
cent and 70 per cent of their clients are victims of sexual abuse-that
is the underlying issue that must be dealt with. We work closely with East
End Addiction, and we would like to do more, but we cannot stabilise our
project funding enough to do such work.
About 16 per cent to 20 per cent of the
young women who have approached us have held a tenancy previously. It will
take more than just providing a roof over someone's head to break the cycle
of homelessness. People must also be provided with a support package, but
that requires a partnership between social services, housing services and
the voluntary sector. It is important to look not just at one strand when
we are considering this vulnerable and chaotic group in society.
Mr Michael McMahon (Hamilton North and
Bellshill) (Lab): What you said about funding fitted in with what we
heard from the rape crisis network. You also talked about the social inclusion
and health agendas. Is there a danger that if central organisations such
as local authorities, health boards and so on provided funding-to include
you in those agendas-you would lose your independence? If your work was
dictated to you, in order to fit an agenda, would there be a trade-off
between the money that you would depend on and your independence?
Rosina McCrae: It is true that there
is a trade-off, but the women's organisations always defend their positions.
Some of us could live well with such funding sources-we have done so in
||past. Our funding
from the health board certainly has no strings attached-the health board
has given us the money directly. Our involvement with the City of Glasgow
Council's social work services is a bit more formal, but it is still quite
happy to give us the independence that we need.
I should make one point about the social
inclusion agenda: historically, most women's organisations in Glasgow have
attempted to fit into the arrangements for section 10 funding. That would
apply throughout Scotland. Section 10 provides for a minuscule amount-5
per cent of the overall social work budget, I think. All the women's organisations
are attempting to feed into a very small wedge of the greater social work
budget. We need access to some of the bigger budgets. With the evidence
presented to you today, you can argue the rationale for including women's
organisations under those budgets. We have survived for years-you can rely
on us to be able to take on the statutory authorities and negotiate a partnership
Shona Robison: I thank Ms Y for
her statement. The comment about the system having failed her sums it all
Do you feel that the Children (Scotland)
Act 1995 has helped children to be listened to and consulted, and to have
their wishes and rights taken on board? I am thinking in particular about
access and about children's having more of a voice, perhaps by saying that
they do not want contact with a parent.
Rosina McCrae: The act has been
a major step forward, but as with everything else, there is evidence that
the system is still weighted towards adults-even children have said that.
Evidence about access has been documented, especially in relation to domestic
abuse and to cases of fathers getting access to children and still being
allowed to abuse them. Even when children have managed to alert people,
the system is a bit reluctant, and there is still support for fathers'
We face the question of how to assist children's
advocacy and create a format under which voices are listened to. The statistics
include the number of times that children disclose to someone that abuse
is happening. The children do not have the language that we would understand,
so it is a matter of training and of being able to pick up the signals.
In the case of a child who falls asleep in class and says, "I didn't sleep
well last night", there is a point at which it is necessary for the teacher
to be proactive in pursuing the matter, because that is a possible indication
of sexual abuse.
The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 is a major
step forward, and should be used to the fullest possible extent, but we
tend to work with the adult survivors
||at the other end.
It is important to focus on the process, and boundaries and safeguards
must be built in throughout. At our stage, we tend to deal with young survivors
who have had the least service. They are usually in the homeless scene.
The Convener: Another four people
have indicated that they want to speak. I will wind up the discussion after
that, as an hour is long enough for the witnesses to sit.
Irene McGugan (North-East Scotland)
(SNP): I notice that SAY Women has no geographical boundaries, but
your work seems to be very focused in the Glasgow area. How available are
the services and support that you provide in other parts of Scotland?
Rosina McCrae: Usually, about 50
per cent of our tenants are from Glasgow and the rest are from outwith
Glasgow. That is a rough average. Our service is accessible in as much
as we get about 65 or 70 referrals a year for eight places. That shows
the pressure on our service.
We have to consider the vulnerability of
the young women. They may be vulnerable because of their age. As Ms Y has
highlighted, support services tend to end for the over-25s, so if we think
that someone has no support, we will bring them in on the basis of age.
Women may also be vulnerable to homelessness or vulnerable because of their
We do not take geographical considerations
into account. The fact that 50 per cent of our tenants come from Glasgow
is partly because we are based in the east end of Glasgow, so we are best
known to the Glasgow agencies. However, last year we had a young woman
from Wales and a woman from London and at the moment we have young women
from the rural north of Scotland. We tend to have a spread.
As Glasgow moves to give us more support
through funding, we may lose some ability to negotiate our independence.
Supplementation is being considered, which is a funding formula. We have
already flagged up the fact that we do not want to lose our wide geographical
focus and that we hope to offer a service to young women throughout the
UK. Apart from us, only Pathway in Edinburgh offers a similar service.
There is certainly scope for extension.
Elaine Smith: My understanding is
that, like the figures we heard from the rape crisis network, not many
cases of child abuse go to court. Of those that do, few end in conviction.
I do not know the exact figures-perhaps you do.
You say in your written evidence that,
of the 14,000 video evidence tapes taken in suspected child sexual abuse
cases, only about 200 could be used in evidence. Why is that? Does it go
||the points raised
in response to Shona Robison's question about the need to train people
who take evidence and to use the child's language? Is it because most of
the cases never get to court?
You go on to say that you would be interested
in participating in some kind of working group. Do you envisage that group
dealing with the whole issue of violence against women? Is that something
that you would like the Parliament to take forward?
Rosina McCrae: Those statistics
date from soon after the introduction of video evidence, which was seen
as a way forward-a better, less formal way of giving children access to
the justice system. It would be interesting for the Parliament to find
out the latest figures.
A number of factors were at play at that
time. There were issues about lawyers not being clued up enough about was
required of witnesses during evidence. The defence also challenged evidence,
so many of the videos were ruled out for different reasons. That is another
example of how, even when something is introduced to give children access
to the justice system and support, the system is very adversarial. It is
right to support the accused, but we are talking about vulnerable witnesses
and, in my opinion, about a very different type of crime, which requires
different rules of evidence.
It would be interesting for the Parliament
or this committee to pursue the point and find out what is happening with
video evidence now. At the time, it represented a new way of doing things
in the court system. Those figures spoke volumes. As Ms Y has said, the
court system can be extremely distressing. We must find different ways
in which to give children access.
Like most women's organisations, we are
suffering from consultation overdose. We offer a front-line service and
that must come first. Responding to consultations and keeping up with research
is very difficult for us. From what I have seen of the Parliament's work,
I can say that putting research and information in the public domain is
very useful for groups such as ours.
However, it is important that consultation
is meaningful. A few years ago, we all contributed to a strategy to tackle
violence against women, and we have heard nothing since-we do not know
what has happened to that strategy. There is some cynicism when we are
faced with another consultation process. More meaningful than sending out
consultation documents would be to attend some of the working groups, which
allow for more detail and draw out the evidence of survivors like Ms Y,
who feel more able to contribute in that context.
Tommy Sheridan: I would like to
thank Ms Y for having the courage to come along today.
Rosina, you have said that you have about
65 referrals a year for eight places. That suggests a failure in a certain
type of front-line service provision. What is happening to the 55 or so
cases that you are not able to accommodate?
Glasgow City Council has a policy of prioritising
domestic abuse victims in housing requests. As a councillor as well as
an MSP, I am concerned that that means that the council provides a house
without a support mechanism to deal with the plethora of problems that
go along with being a survivor. Would you comment on the gap between the
provision and the need for the service?
Rosina McCrae: You are right about
the size of the gap-the statistics speak for themselves. We get referrals
from a variety of organisations. About 16 to 20 per cent of our referrals
are young people who have come through the care system. The social work
department has already identified people who are vulnerable and have disclosed
child sexual abuse. It looks for another service to take over once the
young person has left care. However, we can accommodate only one in four
of those young people.
We also get referrals from drug support
agencies, such as Turning Point in Glasgow. Those young people are in a
tragic situation, too. As we know about the other resources in the city,
we try to suggest other agencies that might be more appropriate to the
need. The tragedy is that we get re-referrals, because the women-there
are male survivors too, but we deal only with women-end up back on the
rough sleeping scene or in the big hostels. It is difficult to stay away
from drug and alcohol abuse in the homeless scene. There is a definite
lack of provision.
We are starting to direct people towards
the wider mental health organisations, such as the Richmond Fellowship,
which can at least give them some sort of support and prevent them from
going back into the hostels. Again, such organisations are usually geared
up to dealing with overdosing, but not with some addictions and self-harm
issues. The answer to your question is that the people we cannot accommodate
go back into the scene. That puts pressure on services, as they keep recycling
the same young people.
Tommy Sheridan: I fully endorse
what Rosina said about the Richmond Fellowship, which operates in my constituency
and has an exemplary record of offering full support, sometimes in difficult
situations where there is stigmatisation from the wider community. That
applies particularly when it is dealing with people
||who have been decarcerated
from psychiatric institutions. I am glad that you have highlighted the
fact that there is a big gap in the services that are required to back
up the physical accommodation.
Rosina McCrae: I do not know how
Ms Y feels about her experience of getting services outwith our organisation.
Ms Y: There are not many services
out there for people with eating disorders and problems of self-harm. All
the treatment centres for eating disorders are private, so people have
had it if their GP will not fund them to go there. There are not many groups
up and running to which people with problems of self-harm can go.
Maureen Macmillan: Rosina's response
to Shona Robison's question covered many of the issues that I wanted to
raise. We need a cultural shift so that people realise that abuse of children
is happening. There is an assumption among some people that children tell
lies about this, but I think that we must always believe children when
they come forward, however they do that. Children do not think and speak
like adults, so we must be alert to the signals. I know that some runaways
are continually returned home because they have never said clearly what
is happening to them. Social services must be much more aware that children
may be running away because of abuse.
I am not sure what the current legal position
is on removing the alleged perpetrator from the home, instead of taking
the children. Can you clarify that?
Rosina McCrae: I understand that
that is possible. At the moment our project is focused on supporting the
young survivor, but I hope that social services are exploring the option
to which Maureen refers. The young women with whom we are dealing at the
moment did not get the benefit of current legislation, which represents
a major step forward and should have an impact in future. However, my past
experience suggests that we are dealing with entrenched attitudes and that
the system is still geared towards upholding the rights of adult male perpetrators.
The legislation must be carefully enforced and monitored, so that any blockages
in the system can be identified.
Maureen Macmillan: I thought that
it was now possible for the alleged perpetrator to be removed from the
home, but I was not sure because I had not heard of the power being used.
Rosina McCrae: It should be. I understand
that the power has not been used as much as had been anticipated, so there
seems to be a problem on the ground. It would be useful to see how many
orders have been made and what the outcome has been.
The Convener: Ms Y, would you like
||any questions or
add anything? I am aware that members have not been firing questions at
you, but that is probably because they do not want to put you under pressure,
rather than because they are not interested in what you have to say.
Ms Y: I do not have anything to
The Convener: Thank you for coming.
The formality of committee meetings does not make them conducive to sharing
the type of experiences that you have had, but I can assure you that the
committee will take on board the points that you have made and deal with
them either here or in recommendations to other committees. Thank you very
much for attending; I hope that it has not been too much of an ordeal.
Rosina McCrae: I want to ask about
the purpose of this meeting. Will our organisations get anything from giving
Johann Lamont: You have saved the
hard questions until the end.
When the Equal Opportunities Committee
was set up, members recognised that there were many strands to inequality
and that it was important to name inequality. We decided to divide into
sub-groups, one of which was the women's sub-group. When that sub-group
was initially feeling its way, we decided to examine women's experience
of the justice system, as survivors of abuse or as victims of violence
and as offenders. It was felt that women perhaps came through the justice
system more quickly. For example, girls who went before the children's
panel were perceived as being vulnerable in different ways from boys and
as a result were treated slightly differently.
In initial discussions, someone mentioned
the "Towards a Just Conclusion" document, which I had not heard about and
which specifically considered how the court system should treat vulnerable
witnesses. I was not sure whether the document was sufficiently aware of
women's experience. The document had been published before the Scottish
Parliament was set up and it seemed to have disappeared-the group's first
task was to find out what had happened to it. As Malcolm Chisholm said,
the Scottish Executive has said that, within the next 90 days, it will
produce a report about actioning the responses to the document.
The sub-group felt that it was important
to put on the record any evidence from women's organisations about the
treatment of women in the system and how agencies and groups work with
those women, because those voices should be heard. The first stage of our
work was to speak to organisations such as SAY Women, Rape Crisis Network
and the Zero Tolerance Trust. We are also hoping to have a presentation
from Professor Sheila McLean, who has conducted some
||research into offending.
I hope that we can also have discussions on the matter in the less formal
settings of the sub-group.
In answer to your question, I suppose that
the first thing that your organisation will get out of the process is a
voice and, if nothing else, a public report of your statement of the issues.
The women's sub-group is hoping to pull together all the evidence that
has been received and to produce a report about funding issues as well
as the "Towards a Just Conclusion" document. That report will be passed
to the Executive and perhaps to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee
for consideration. As I said, our first task was to dust off a document
that had been sitting on a shelf somewhere and to pursue the issues that
it raised, which has been done. I hope that, once the report is published,
we can discuss with your organisations how to make progress on these issues.
Rosina McCrae: Thanks.
The Convener: Thanks again for coming
The next item is evidence from Evelyn Gillan
of the Zero Tolerance Trust. After she has given her presentation members
will comment or ask questions.
Evelyn Gillan (Zero Tolerance Trust):
I will be brief, as you have had very useful presentations.
There are three things that need to happen
for the Parliament to be effective in tackling male violence against women
and children. I suggest that this committee could play a key role in that.
It is encouraging that members are thinking about what this committee could
First, we need to make the links between
the different forms of violence. The presentations that you heard reiterated
that point. When we launched the first zero tolerance campaign eight years
ago, people asked us why we had included child sexual abuse and even rape
in the campaign. We said then that all forms of violence against women
and children are linked and share the same underlying causes; the problem
was not about mad, sad or bad men but about power and control. If we separate
the different forms of violence, we lose those connections and the problem-the
sheer scale of abuse-will seem overwhelming for politicians. Therefore,
it concerns us that the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Violence, which
has been established by the Executive, is focusing only on domestic abuse.
We hope that this committee will support our efforts to encourage the Parliament
to make the links between the different forms of violence.
Because it is useful for the other work
is involved, we ask you to make the links between violence against women
and other oppressions. Homophobic bullying, racism and disability discrimination
all share the same underlying causes. We must consider the problem from
the point of view that if we have a divisive society, which privileges
one group above another, individual abuses of power such as the ones about
which we have heard will remain unchecked. Therefore, the first important
step is to make the connections.
Secondly, we need to make the links between
the different policy issues that are involved. Rape Crisis and SAY Women
have made that point very clearly. It is appropriate for the committee
to examine violence against women and children because that is an equality
issue. However, as we have heard, it also relates to social inclusion,
crime prevention and criminal justice, housing, child protection, education
and health. I suggest that the Equal Opportunities Committee is ideally
placed to make those policy connections. No Government has done that successfully,
and I am not convinced that the links are being made at Executive level.
I have just been at a Health Education
Board for Scotland seminar on teenage pregnancy. We know that a quarter
of reported rape victims are aged under 15. We also know that for significant
numbers of mums who are aged under 16 the sex was unwanted, and that for
many mums who are aged under 16 the fathers are considerably older-sometimes
in their 30s. However, that perspective was missing from the seminar. Policy
connections are vital. I think that this committee could take a lead in
devising a model for the Parliament to develop an integrated response to
tackling violence. I back what Rosina McCrae, Cara Gillespie and Sandy
Brindley have said. We hope that you will make use of women's organisations
and the expertise that is out there.
Thirdly-my organisation is particularly
concerned about this-we must believe that things could be different. We
must have a vision that takes us beyond simply dealing with the effects
of violence. That does not detract from the very real service provision
issues that need to be addressed. The Zero Tolerance Trust pioneered the
three Ps-provision, prevention, protection-because we thought that an integrated,
comprehensive strategy was the way forward.
The Parliament and, I hope, the Equal Opportunities
Committee, should be concerned with preventing violence before it happens,
rather than only with the consequences or with preventing the escalation
of violence. This comes down to how one views the problem and to how we
can make the problem not seem as overwhelming as it can seem to be.
||If we believe that
violence against women and children is a social problem, and that social
structures and cultural attitudes create the conditions for violence, we
must believe that those structures and attitudes are capable of changing.
The belief that change is possible drives the Zero Tolerance Trust. If
we believe that change is possible, we must offer young men and young women
different choices about how they relate to one another and to the wider
society. The work in which we are engaged with young people across Scotland
aims to do just that. Young people have taken our "Respect" message into
pubs, clubs and campuses throughout Scotland. Our "Respect" CD-ROM and
educational programmes give out a clear message: "Respect yourself, respect
others and respect difference." We are saying to boys and girls, "Things
do not have to be this way."
Maureen Macmillan's comment about work
in schools highlights a critical issue. We are developing curriculum material
for use in primary and secondary schools. If we can say to young people
that they can develop relationships that are based on trust, respect and
equality, things might begin to change. We believe that that fundamental
work on primary prevention and root causes must form part of this Parliament's
strategy. However, that work has not received such prominence. Less than
a quarter of the 92 items listed for action in the work plan deal with
When we go to Cowdenbeath, Edinburgh and
other places across Scotland, young people say to us, "You know, we never
get the chance to talk about relationships in this way. We never get the
chance to talk about pressure, about boys coming under pressure from other
boys, or about girls coming under pressure from boys to have sex. All we
ever get shown is how to put a condom on a courgette." That is the extent
to which we engage with young people.
The Zero Tolerance Trust, like the organisations
that came before us, receives no Government funding whatever to carry out
this work. Our work is funded primarily by local authorities-I pay tribute
to them and to those people here representing local authorities who have
been supportive of that work. Other funding comes from charitable donations
and private finance, but that approach must change if we are to make a
difference. As well as carrying out our focused work with young people,
the trust continues to develop preventive, public education campaigns.
The idea of cultural and societal change,
which is fundamental to making a difference, has been referred to this
morning. I urge the committee, when it deliberates on the criminal justice
system issues that must be addressed, not to forget Lynn Jamieson's research,
to which Sandy Brindley referred. That research showed that, even when
has been instigated, defence lawyers still find ways in which to get round
those reforms and to peddle misinformation. As Lynn Jamieson said, the
"create a smokescreen of immorality"
We need major reform, not just legislative
reform. We must effect a fundamental shift in people's attitudes and in
the way in which they view violence. We hope that the Executive will make
use of the expertise of the Zero Tolerance Trust in developing its preventive
work, although it has not done so in the past, which we think is another
From the time that we have given the committee
this morning, we hope to pass on the message that, if the Parliament is
to be about anything, it must be about making a difference. All three organisations
from which the committee has taken evidence this morning are making a difference,
against considerable odds, and we hope that this committee will take a
lead role in making a difference.
Who asks the questions in Parliament about
why the COSLA guidelines are not taken up? Who is asking why women's organisations
have not been consulted about vulnerable witnesses? Who is asking why there
is no statutory funding, even though we provide services on a daily basis
for organisations such as Rape Crisis and SAY Women? Who is asking why
the Scottish Executive is paying advertising agencies £500,000 to
develop mass-media campaigns when we are regarded in Europe as the leaders
in developing preventive public education? I have just come back from China
and even there people have heard of us, although we have no budget to tell
people about what we do. It is absolutely vital that this committee takes
a lead role, because at the moment there are questions about who is taking
the lead and co-ordinating things.
Malcolm Chisholm: You raise many
important issues. The Executive has not used the Zero Tolerance Trust in
the past, but you are now part of the group that is taking forward the
domestic abuse development fund. Do you think that there has been a shift
and that you can now put across messages about prevention, or would you
say that things have not changed?
Evelyn Gillan: We were invited to
join the partnership only very recently, and we have attended only two
meetings. We are grateful that that has finally happened. One of the questions
that I have asked at meetings of the partnership concerns the relationship
between the mass-media work in which the Executive is involved and the
partnership. It seemed as though they were not working together closely
and that the crime
was developing mass-media campaigns quite separately from the partnership.
However, Jackie Baillie recently attended the launch of our education CD-ROM;
since that launch, we have been approached by the Executive about the possibility
of our "Respect" campaign material being incorporated into the Executive's
plans. It is a bit early to say, but things are looking much more hopeful
now than they were six months ago.
Malcolm Chisholm: In another context,
there is a big debate about guidelines on sex education. Should your "Respect"
messages and materials not be being built into those as well?
Evelyn Gillan: Absolutely. That
illustrates the point that I have been trying to make about joined-up government
and policy connections. One of our big concerns is that the debate around
sexual health strategy and guidelines and teenage pregnancy is happening
separately from the Parliament's work on violence, despite the fact that
there are clear links between the two. We have just finished evaluating
a six-week educational programme that we conducted among young men and
young women in Scotland. One of the findings was that the programme encouraged
young men-a critical group for health education-and young women to seek
health advice and to access sexual health services.
Tommy Sheridan: Evelyn finished
her presentation very positively. I think that she was saying that we must
do something, rather than simply be a listening body. It is not enough
for us just to absorb information-we must do something with it. I suggest
that, if the Zero Tolerance Trust and the other organisations that have
given evidence today have questions that they want to ask, they should
come to this committee, so that we can ensure that those questions are
asked. Obviously, people can contact individual MSPs who can lodge questions
for them, but there is more chance of generating answers in the time scales
that are required if questions are asked via the committee. I hope that
the Zero Tolerance Trust will use the committee to do that, as people who
are providing front-line services can feel frustrated; they can feel that
they are not being listened to, despite all the consultation that is happening.
They are the people who are doing the work on the ground.
Mr Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands)
(Con): You said that we should find out why the COSLA guidelines were
not been implemented. Could you expand a wee bit on that?
Evelyn Gillan: That was referred
to by previous witnesses. COSLA developed fairly comprehensive guidelines
on multi-agency responses to tackle violence, which are the most comprehensive
guidelines that have been drawn
||up in Scotland.
As previous witnesses said, nobody is monitoring what has happened to those
guidelines or whether they are being followed.
Johann Lamont: You asked who is
asking questions about why the COSLA guidelines are not being taken up.
I suppose that whoever asks the questions will get answers. Part of that
questioning process might be conducted through the Equal Opportunities
Committee, which can raise the matter with ministers.
Is there something about the way in which
the Executive is structured that prevents that kind of work from being
done? For example, it might have a perspective on justice and we might
have a perspective on something else, but we might not pull together all
the areas in relation to women-which is done through education. Do you
have any suggestions of ways in which the Executive could listen to the
questions, respond to them and deal with that kind of work more effectively?
You will be aware of the Executive's equality unit. How else could that
work be done?
Evelyn Gillan: A major policy issue
for the Executive is the separating out of the various issues. Our experience
is of going to a seminar on teenage pregnancy, going to a seminar on criminal
justice or coming to the Equal Opportunities Committee, but it is not clear
how the issues are coming together.
Although civil servants from all the key
departments in the Executive are represented in the partnership, there
is no political representation. We have said consistently that we think
that that is unfortunate, as there needs to be a political drive to progress
with the work. In my presentation, I was suggesting that it may be worth
while for this committee to consider coming up with a model, and that one
of the good things about the Parliament is the structures that make it
possible for committees to access outside expertise, research money, and
what have you.
The partnership will report at the end
of the year, and that will be its job finished. It would be helpful if
this committee could consider possible models for developing an integrated
response. There are some good examples in Canada on which we could base
such a response. Some kind of pilot work could be undertaken over the next
six months that might suggest ways in which we could develop an integrated
response. That would be timely, as the partnership will report at the end
of the year.
The Convener: I think that fewer
questions have been asked as a result of the nature of the evidence. We
asked a lot of questions earlier. Thank you for coming along. I hope that
be able to call on your expertise over the coming months, as we try to
find practical ways to make progress on the issues that have been raised
today. We will leave discussion of that evidence until we deal with item
8 in private.
The Convener: We now move on to
item 5. Everybody should have a copy of the consultation document. I have
written to the Deputy Minister for Social Inclusion, Housing and the Voluntary
Sector, suggesting that we should have a longer time scale for consultation
because of the timing of our committee meetings. Jackie Baillie has committed
herself to allowing us a few extra days on it.
Everybody has a copy of the document. Prior
to the committee meeting, I received a letter from Daniel Mulhall of the
consulate general of Ireland, and a note from the Commission for Racial
Equality-not its final response-on the question. I know that members do
not have those documents, but are there any comments on the material that
The consulate general of Ireland expressed
disappointment that an Irish category was not included in the Scottish
census, even though it is included on the census for England and Wales.
That matter was raised earlier in the committee's discussions. I am sure
that the committee would support that.
Mr McGrigor: I have had a few letters
about language, but that is not what we are discussing.
The Convener: Language has been
dealt with-we are going to be consulted about questions in the boosted
household survey. When we are consulted on that, members can bring up letters
and comments on language. At the moment I would like to focus on the consultation
on the questions on religion and ethnicity.
Tommy Sheridan: Perhaps we could
add an income bracket to the religion question.
The Convener: If you could think
of a question that could fit in with that, I am sure that we could agree
to it-but I think it is unlikely.
We have about a week to frame a response.
Perhaps we could draft something and e-mail it to members. Any comments
could be sent to me after that. We have agreed that we would like an Irish
category included in the ethnicity question.
Nora Radcliffe: Did the consulate
general realise that there was a question about country of birth, which
covers the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland?
The Convener: Yes.
Nora Radcliffe: They do not think
that that covers it?
The Convener: No. The letter says
"the exclusion of an Irish category seems
questionable . . . Many people in Scotland descended from Irish immigrants
||would now choose
to classify themselves as Irish".
I can include that in the response that
I e-mail round for comment by members. Is everyone happy with that?
Members indicated agreement.
The Convener: The first report is
from Irene McGugan on disability issues.
McGugan: We held a meeting on Tuesday 7 March. The committee will remember
that the Disabled Persons Housing Service gave evidence last week and the
disability reporters group was remitted to draw up an action plan. We spent
some time considering how to put that together. We hope to have a report
that will include a list of questions for ministers. We also hope to give
some consideration to and review the Building Standards and Procedure Amendment
(Scotland) Regulations 1999, in particular the amendments to part T (Access
and Facilities for Disabled People) of the Technical Standards for Compliance
with the Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations 1990.
We will share that report with DPHS and
the committee. Members might like to consider whether it would be appropriate
to write to the minister with comments and questions or to invite her to
come along and discuss the issues.
We are going to contact Capability Scotland
in relation to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. We hope that Capability
Scotland will help us to prepare or source a briefing for MSPs on the impact
of that legislation in Scotland.
We note that the National Disability Council
is to meet the committee on 28 March. We will liaise with the conveners
and the clerk about whether it would be relevant to put something on the
agenda for that meeting about the Disability Rights Commission.
Finally, lip-reading was mentioned at a
previous meeting. It should be noted that a motion on lip-reading has been
lodged, the text of which I have printed on my paper for today's meeting.
Members will have to decide whether they want to support the motion. However,
that does not take away from the need to make progress on other issues
to do with lip-reading.
The Convener: Thank you. Does anyone
have any questions or comments?
Johann Lamont: I wondered about
the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. We spoke before about the fact
that ferries are exempt under the act, but school buses are too, which
I thought was remarkable. It would be useful to get some more information
The Convener: If that is everything,
Johann Lamont will give her report on gender issues.
Johann Lamont: I have circulated
a report, which should be self-explanatory, but I want to emphasise the
importance of the work done in the
||past by Engender.
Engender will continue to do important work but, crucially, it will not
do the gender audit. It is important to find out what the Scottish Executive's
strategy will be in relation to the audit.
At some stage, it will be useful to hear
about Engender's broader work. I want to draw particular attention, however,
to the points raised about budget scrutiny. Engender reported that a women's
budget group has been set up-Engender admitted that that was not a terribly
user-friendly name. The idea is to scrutinise expenditure plans from the
Engender is keen to encourage the committees
that will scrutinise budgets to take that kind of perspective when they
start their work. Scrutiny of next year's budgets starts in the very near
future. We have asked to take evidence from Engender on the whole question
of budget scrutiny and other issues, but importantly, we should also write
to the committees that will examine questions of finance, budgets and so
on, either to suggest that they hear from the women's budget group or to
make them aware that information is there and encourage them to seek it,
even in written form, so that they are aware of those elements when they
consider the budget. I hope that members will agree to write to the committees.
The final recommendation is that we pursue
with the Executive the question of how it will deal with the gender audit
and whether the Scottish Executive can offer any funding options for Engender's
The Convener: Thank you. Are there
any questions or comments? If not, I should say that I spoke to someone
from Engender last week and said that it was possible that we would have
Engender along to talk in particular about the gender audit, which is the
last that the organisation will produce. It might be useful to have someone
from the Scottish Executive along at the same time to ask questions about
how the audit will be dealt with by the Scottish Executive.
Johann Lamont: I should have mentioned-I
think that it is in the report-that on 29 March Engender will facilitate
a debate between the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Canadian High
Commission, building on the work that has been done in Canada, on how budgets
can be scrutinised from the women's perspective.
Unfortunately, I think that the committee
meets that day, so I am not sure whether anybody from here will be able
to go. There will be a briefing for MSPs at lunch time, but it may also
be possible to organise an informal event in the Parliament at the end
of the conference so that we can speak to people.
It is important for us to be proactive
We need to tell them that we expect them to have an equalities perspective
when they scrutinise budgets-that is not just our job-and expect them to
source the Engender information to get particular experience or expertise
in relation to women's inequality.
The Convener: The lunch-time event
is in my diary. I am quite happy to contact Engender to find out whether
there is any possibility of organising something for later in the day.
Are there any other comments?
Malcolm Chisholm: There is perhaps
a general question about how this committee will deal with the budget.
All the other committees will have a timetable for dealing with the budget
in April and May. We should give some thought to that so that we do not
opt out of the process.
Martin Verity (Clerk Team Leader):
All the committees, including the Equal Opportunities Committee, have been
asked to consider the budget process. It has been suggested that the Equal
Opportunities Committee should take a particular interest in how the subject
committees handle the budget. This committee could develop an overall perspective,
which it could ask the other committees to take on board.
The Convener: What it the timetable
for dealing with the budget?
Martin Verity: We understand that
the process will begin at the end of March. This committee and other committees
will then have to fit in meetings on this over the same period. It might
be appropriate for this committee to write formally to the other committees
to ask them to take its perspective on board. The matter could also be
raised at the conveners liaison group.
The Convener: If members leave that
matter with me, I will try to report back at the next meeting.
Mr McMahon: There was a meeting
last Tuesday morning with Positive Action in Housing. Two items on the
agenda were the recent statistics on race crime from Strathclyde police,
and the review of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, one year on from the publication
of its report.
The key point about the statistics, which
I invited PAIH to the Parliament to discuss, is that the police claim that
a 74 per cent increase in race crime is an indication of more confidence
in the way in which the police are handling situations, but PAIH, I was
not surprised to learn, is foremost among groups that view that increase
differently. When crime rates fall, the police congratulates itself, and
when crime rates increase it
again. PAIH looked at the disposal rates-the number of convictions and
actions that are taken on those statistics-and found that there was no
evidence that there had been any improvement. Although 170 racial incidents
were reported to PAIH, there was no sign of increased confidence-that is
particularly true in relation to racial harassment and action against tenants
who were responsible for that harassment.
The statistics do not stack up in relation
to the experience of the ethnic minority communities. PAIH asked us to
examine a few issues. Given that Jim Wallace announced to this committee
that there would be a review of the police complaints system, it is important
that we should be proactive and invite him to discuss that review. I know
that that review is due shortly, so we might time a meeting to coincide
with it. At the same meeting we can ask Jim Wallace about the review of
the Stephen Lawrence report. The information that I have received is that,
although there were 70 recommendations, there is little or no evidence
of any change being effected. There are a series of issues to discuss with
PAIH said that the Association of Chief
Police Officers in Scotland had been considering the situation. A series
of issues arise about how racism is tackled with the police. Just educating
someone about the culture of a Muslim family does not help that family
when the police batter down its door to make an arrest. The attitudes that
the police bring to such situations are not changing. The number of candidates
for the police force from ethnic minority groups who drop out has increased.
It is important that we examine those issues. If we invited Jim Wallace
and ACPOS along, we could address those issues, which are fundamental to
what is happening in the community.
The other on-going issue is the way in
which ethnic minorities are treated by the criminal justice system. Given
that in the near future the Lord Advocate will be leaving to handle a case
in another country, we should try to have him or representatives of the
Law Society or Crown Office-preferably all of them-along as soon as possible.
We need to examine what is happening in the system in general. I know that
we cannot discuss the specifics of the Chhokhar case, but it raises some
general issues. The committee should consider those with a view to highlighting
Mr McGrigor: I received an e-mail
yesterday from Positive Action in Housing, which indicated how important
it was that the census should include a question on language and called
on the Equal Opportunities Committee to ensure that it was included.
Everybody received that e-mail. I think that the organisation must be behind
on what has been happening, as the contents of the census have already
been agreed. When this committee is consulted about the form that a language
question should take in the boosted household survey, we will be able to
take on board the points that have been made to us. I read the e-mail just
before I came to the meeting and will be responding. However, it is too
late to have a language question included in the census.
Mr McGrigor: When the Commission
for Racial Equality appeared before us to discuss the census, did they
express support for the inclusion of a language question?
The Convener: The CRE would have
preferred a language question to be included in the census but has accepted
the fact that valuable information can still be gained through the boosted
household survey, depending on what question is asked. We will want to
consult Positive Action in Housing and the Commission for Racial Equality
on the form of that question.
Tommy Sheridan: At the same time
as the race issues sub-group was meeting, I and a couple of other MSPs,
including Shona Robison, were at a seminar organised by the Scottish Gypsy
Traveller Association. It was entitled "Striving for Equality" and took
place at the City Chambers in Edinburgh. Following that seminar the Scottish
Traveller Consortium, which is made up of Save the Children, the Scottish
Human Rights Centre and the Scottish Gypsy Traveller Association, made
a strenuous attempt to be allowed to make a presentation to the committee
on what it perceives as a denial of the rights of the travelling and gypsy
community across Scotland. It also wanted the committee to hear the arguments
in favour of the gypsy and travelling community being considered as a specific
ethnic group, which is a bone of contention within the travelling community
I had hoped that we might agree to invite
the consortium to give us a presentation on those issues. Some of the treatment
that the travelling community is experiencing in different parts of Scotland
is extremely worrying, and we need to get a handle on it.
The Convener: We have already said
that travelling people would come within our race remit, and I know that
the Commission for Racial Equality deals with the travelling community.
We would like to invite the consortium to a future meeting, as soon as
we are clear of the legislation that we have to deal with.
Mr John Munro (Ross, Skye and Inverness
West) (LD): I support Tommy Sheridan's suggestion. However, there is
disagreement within the travelling community between new age
traditional travellers. Is there unity between those two groups, or would
we need to see them separately?
Tommy Sheridan: John Munro's point
is accurate. The consortium is an attempt to establish a wide umbrella
to speak for as many travellers and members of the gypsy community as possible.
There will always be differences within that community and the consortium
will be able to speak for the majority of them.
Mr McGrigor: I have been in touch
with one representative of the travelling community and I told her to write
to the Equal Opportunities Committee to ask whether she could give evidence.
The Convener: Thank you. I have
not received that yet, but I have no doubt that I will.
Michael McMahon suggested that we invite
Jim Wallace for an update of the review of the Stephen Lawrence report
and, because much of the report referred to the police, that we invite
APCOS as well. He suggested that we invite the Lord Advocate, so that we
can consider the way that ethnic minority people are treated in the criminal
justice system. The first thing I would want to do is to invite Jim Wallace
and ACPOS along for a review of what is happening and to establish whether
any of the committee's points from its report were taken on board. We have
not really heard anything about that yet.
With regard to the criminal justice system,
it might be better to wait until after the Chhokar trial to fully examine
the issues. Given that the case is sub judice, we would be restricted in
what we could discuss. We could discuss issues in general, but it would
be more useful if we could discuss the matter in more detail afterwards.
Perhaps we could do both.
Mr McMahon: The point has been made
that we do not have to discuss what is happening in the trial. The signal
has been sent out that this important case is not being handled particularly
well. If we decide to look at the issue overall-and to wait until the Lord
Advocate is available to do that-it might be appropriate for the committee
to send a letter, highlighting the concerns that have been raised.
I am concerned that, because of the way
that the procedure has been handled, this trial has been dragged out and
that justice has been denied. It is not about the evidence or the outcome
of the trial, but the fact that it was handled in this way-it has been
transferred from city to city and has been held up, for people to come
to consider it. That is not conducive to good justice.
The Convener: I have already spoken
to the new Lord Advocate about it and I have arranged to
||speak to him about
it again on Thursday. As well as making private representations to the
Lord Advocate about how things are progressing, if there is no public inquiry
into the handling of the trial, the committee could conduct some form of
inquiry. There is little that the committee can usefully discuss at the
moment. It would be useful to make private representations to move the
Malcolm Chisholm: Obviously, we
cannot discuss the Chhokar case, although I would accept that there ought
to be a public inquiry about the handling of it, once the trial is over.
I am concerned that Aamer Anwar, who has
co-ordinated the Chhokar Family Justice Campaign, has been excluded from
Jim Wallace's steering group on the McPherson report. My understanding
is that that is related to his role in the Chhokar campaign. However, just
as we can discuss the general issues without talking about matters that
are sub judice, I am entirely sure that he-not least as a lawyer-is perfectly
capable of doing the same. He would be an important person to have on that
steering group and I am concerned that he has been excluded. I hope that
the committee might be able to make representations on that.
Mr McMahon: As a committee, we should
at least contact the Lord Advocate, to try to raise these issues.
The Convener: I shall speak to the
Lord Advocate on Thursday, and would be happy to raise those issues on
behalf of the committee.
Mr McMahon: That will be quicker
than sending a letter.
The Convener: It will be quicker
and, at this stage, more useful than inviting him to attend the committee.
At some point-probably when the case is over-we will invite several people
to attend the committee to talk about what has happened. I shall raise
with the Lord Advocate the issue of the exclusion of Aamer Anwar.
Malcolm Chisholm: That issue is
for Jim Wallace.
Mr McMahon: We must emphasise to
the Lord Advocate the concern of the ethnic minority communities over the
handling of this case and the lack of progress that has been made. The
procedures that are being pursued are not conducive to encouraging the
belief that ethnic minorities will be treated equitably in the eyes of
the law. We must emphasise that that feeling is out there and make the
Lord Advocate aware of it.
The Convener: We will timetable
||to Jim Wallace
as soon as possible. The final report is from Nora Radcliffe on sexual
Nora Radcliffe (Gordon) (LD): We
had a meeting that was hosted by Outright Scotland and the Equality Network
on 1 March. I do not have a minute of that, but when I get one I shall
e-mail it to members, as I have done for previous meetings. It was a fairly
informal meeting. Kate McLean and Shona Robison were there. Our recent
preoccupation had been the wording in the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland)
Bill. The Executive has now produced a form of words that, after informal
consultation with those two organisations, seems to pass the equality test.
The group next wants to consider three
issues. The first is the issue of provision for young lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender people, and I have undertaken to investigate the youth
organisations that exist for that group of youngsters.
Secondly, we will be considering what aspects
of family law and Scots law might have to be changed to ensure that it
is not discriminatory on grounds of sexual orientation. That is a massive
task, but Professor Norrie of the University of Strathclyde is putting
together a comprehensive list of what legislation will be involved. That
will be another avenue of work for us.
The third issue that the LGBT community
is beginning to become aware of and discuss concerns its feelings about
the recognition of same-sex couples, whether it wants some form of formal,
civic recognition, and what form that should take. That is another wide-ranging
topic of discussion.
Those are the three avenues that we will
pursue over the next few months. As usual, I shall e-mail committee members
the date of the next group meeting. Everyone is welcome to attend.
The Convener: Thanks very much.
The Convener: Several leaflets from
the Equal Opportunities Commission are all the correspondence that we have
received. If anybody would like to look at those, they can contact Martin
Verity, who will be able to provide them with copies.
We now move into private session.
Meeting continued in private until 12:38.