Accused rapists are being allowed to “dodge justice” by being “diverted from prosecution” instead of facing trial, the Scottish Conservatives have said.
Figures from the Crown Office say that 48 people charged with rape were diverted to social workers or “other identified agencies” over the past five years.
In 2018/19, prosecutors diverted one rape case from 687 reported to them by Police Scotland.
That number increased to three the following year and a record 16 in 2022/23.
However, the of the 48 cases, four of the alleged rapists were aged over 18, while the rest were under 18 with 22 of the cases involving accused aged 12 to 15.
The Crown Office say cases diverted may be the result of a victim not wishing for an accused to face trial but wishing for their behaviour to be addressed.
The figures were disclosed by Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC in response to a parliamentary question by Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Russell Findlay.
The report comes after it emerged in the Daily Record newspaper in June that a 17-year-old accused of rape was diverted from prosecution – with his victim saying the decision left her feeling “totally let down”.
The Scottish Conservatives have now called for a “speedy” review of the practice.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Russell Findlay MSP said: “These shocking figures reveal an increasingly common practice of allowing accused rapists to dodge justice.
“Rape victims are being betrayed by the SNP’s pitifully weak justice system which takes the side of criminals and is completely out of touch with ordinary Scots.
“In the vast majority of these cases, the victims are women and girls who are fully entitled to proper justice.
“No alleged rapist should be allowed to walk away with a slap on the wrist and the Lord Advocate’s recently announced review of this practice must be speedy, thorough and transparent.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the devastating impact of sexual crimes on victims, their families and wider society.
“The Scottish Government is unable to comment on decisions made by the Crown, as these are a matter for the Lord Advocate as independent prosecutor.
“The Scottish Government is taking a wide range of steps to strengthen how victims and witnesses in sexual offence cases are supported and informed through the justice system.”