Reaction from the Alex Salmond trial has exposed barriers to making allegations of sexual assault and could have a “chilling effect” on future reporting, according to a charity.
The former first minister of Scotland was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday.
Rape Crisis Scotland has now claimed coverage of the trial and accusations against those making complaints could dissuade those who may wish to come forward with allegations in future.
Sandy Brindley, chief executive of the charity, said: “The trial of Alex Salmond has exposed the barriers that exist to reporting sexual crimes and we fear could have a chilling effect on reporting for years to come.
“The significance of this trial goes far beyond Salmond and the women involved in this case.
“Much of what happened in this trial is replicated across Scotland, compounding the fears of survivors.
“How we respond sends a signal to anyone who might one day try to report a sexual offence.”
She added: “In seeking vengeance against these women, those commenting on this case should reflect on the message that they are sending to all those who have experienced sexual crimes, and those who one day will.
“From the volume and nature of recent calls to our helpline we know that when there are public conversations about sexual assault survivors are listening.
“If we ever hope to move beyond rape and attempted rape having the lowest conviction rate of any crime, then we should be careful of the messages we are sending.”
Salmond vowed evidence of a plot to discredit him will “see the light of day” after he was acquitted of a string of sexual offences, including attempted rape.
He had denied all the charges and giving evidence claimed some were “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose”.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, Joanna Cherry SNP MP said she was “pleased” with the outcome and that press reporting should be done “carefully”.
She also called for an independent inquiry into how her party handled the complaints.
The jury, which took less than six hours to reach its decision, returned not guilty verdicts on 12 charges and returned a not proven verdict on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape. 280245 MAR 20