Scottish rape victims to be given court transcripts for free in UK first

The pilot scheme could save sexual assault survivors thousands in fees they would previously be forced to pay.

Scottish rape victims to be given court transcripts for free in UK first Getty Images

Victims of rape and sexual assault in Scotland will be given access to court transcripts for free in a new pilot that could save survivors thousands of pounds.

From Friday, complainers will be able to apply for transcripts of cases heard in the High Court dating back to 2007, when digital recording began.

Those who ask for transcripts are currently charged around £90 per hour of transcription with the total amount potentially running into the thousands.

The Scottish Government said it would provide £100,000 towards the scheme which is the first of its kind in the UK.

It said the pilot is part of its plans to improve victims’ experience of the justice system.

Campaigner Hannah Stakes welcomed the move, saying: “Finally, after half a decade I will receive the documentation that details the two most harrowing incidents in my life – the trial being the worst.

“Access to these transcripts is a basic human right. This is my information; my life, my story, my body and my DNA. 

“They are a copy of the truth without an agenda and evidence of how severely the system fails victims of sexual assault.

“I want to express my gratitude to the Justice Committee for listening to me back in 2021. This is a vital step towards a fairer and more transparent system.”

Rape survivor and justice reform campaigner Ellie Wilson, whose attacker was jailed in 2022 for five years, was forced to launch a crowdfunding campaign to pay the £3,000 in fees needed to transcribe her case.

Rape survivor Ellie Wilson welcomed the pilot.STV News

She said victims of sexual assault should not be “priced out” of accessing data that is “vital” to their recovery.

She said: “The introduction of the pilot is extremely welcome, and will help to ensure transparency in the justice process and accountability within the legal profession.

“Scotland has the opportunity to lead the way in ensuring justice is open, fair, and accountable. This will make a real difference to survivors and take away an unnecessary and traumatic hurdle in their justice journey.”

Rape Crisis Scotland chief executive Sandy Brindley said: “This pilot means that more survivors will be able to see, in black and white, exactly what happened at the trial of their case and raise complaints about the treatment they experienced.

“Survivors will be able to have a full picture of what happened throughout the trial, something many survivors are currently left without after their case has concluded.

“For too long, survivors were forced to pay very high fees to access court transcripts from their cases. These fees were simply out of reach for many.

“Accessing justice should never have a price tag. It can be very difficult for a survivor to make a complaint about their treatment in court without access to a copy of the court transcript from their case.

“We know this announcement will be disappointing for survivors whose cases were heard in the Sheriff Court and who will not be eligible to apply for transcripts under this scheme. We hope further consideration will be given to this by the Scottish Government.”

Rape Crisis Scotland chief executive Sandy Brindley said accessing justice should not have a price tag.STV News

Justice secretary Angela Constance said:  “We want to support victims and ensure we have a trauma-informed justice system. We have heard from victims of serious sexual assaults that the whole court process can be very traumatic and it can be difficult to take in what is said in court at the time.

“Being able to obtain transcripts, where victims can go over exactly what was said in court in their own time, can help their recovery.

“The pilot, along with the proposed reforms in the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill are aimed at improving sexual offence victims’ experience of the justice system so they can have confidence in it.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said: “The SCTS will facilitate the Scottish Government led pilot which will enable complainers in High Court cases involving charges of rape and/or sexual assault to apply for free access to trial transcripts.

“Complainers will be able to apply for funding using the application form which will be available on our website when the pilot begins on Friday.”

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