Justice committee supports reform of sexual offences


The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill has received initial approval from the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee.

Although the committee agrees with the principles of the bill, its report highlights areas of concern and ambiguity especially regarding sexual activity between older children. The committee also supports many witnesses who called for the creation of a new statutory offence of rape with an object.

Committee Convener Bill Aitken MSP said: “This is a difficult piece of legislation and although the committee is content with the Bill’s general principles and supports the creation of a new statutory framework to bring Scots Law on rape and other sexual offences into the modern world, there are areas where the Government will need to satisfy the Parliament on the detail as this legislation progresses.

"Much of the committee’s focus was on the provisions intended to protect children and we strongly support retaining 16 as the age of consent. However, we have a difficulty with the proposal that the law should criminalise underage girls who run the risk of becoming pregnant, with all the legal implications that might follow. These matters are of course for the discretion of the Lord Advocate, but we generally favour a welfare approach though the Children’s Hearing System for all cases of underage consensual sexual activity.

"We agree with many of the witnesses who called for a new offence of rape with an object. It is important that the law does, and is seen to, recognise the serious and specific harm and distress caused by being violated in this way.”

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 17 June 2008 and referred to the Justice Committee.

The Stage 1 debate on the Bill is scheduled to take place during the week commencing 9 February 2008.

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