Comment: Brave rape victim has shown another way to justice

The judge's ruling in the rape case involving two Premiership footballers will shake Scotland's legal system to its foundations.

Tuesday, 17th January 2017, 6:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th January 2017, 6:37 pm
A judge ruled that David Robertson and fellow footballer David Goodwillie had committed rape

The ordeal which Denise Clair has been through since she bumped into the pair on a night out in West Lothian has been truly harrowing. The then 24-year-old mum-of-one was so drunk that, according to one witness, she was in need of an ambulance. Instead of offering help, David Goodwillie and David Robertson took her to a flat where they despicably took advantage of her.

The courage that she has shown in pursuing justice when it was denied to her is inspiring.

The only way that she could have her day in court, after the Crown Office decided to drop criminal proceedings against the pair, was to waive her right to anonymity. In doing so, she paid a heavy price, including horrible personal abuse.

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She finally received justice yesterday - and paved the way for others to do the same. In the Court of Session in Edinburgh she created legal history yesterday by becoming the first woman to successfully sue her rapists for damages in Scotland. It is unthinkable that she will be the last.

Just one in ten complaints of rape made to the police in Scotland ever reach court. That is shocking. One of reasons for this is that the burden of proof in a criminal case - that the defendant is guilty “beyond all reasonable” doubt - is much higher than in civil cases and notoriously hard to meet in cases of sex assault.

Yesterday’s verdict has shown victims that the civil courts - where a case has to be proved “in the balance of probability” - offers a practical alternative when the route to court is blocked to them.

Our justice system now has some tough questions to answer. Is it still abandoning criminal cases of rape too quickly? And should anonymity for complainants in rape cases be extended to the civil courts?