Petition 1876: Next steps and further action needed

Petition 1876: Accurately record the sex of people charged or convicted of rape or attempted rape

Our petition closed for signatories on  5 July, with 12,834 signatures. We are very grateful to all those who signed and shared it.  All material relating to the petition is now published here on the Parliament site.

This is a high number of signatures for a Scottish Parliament petition: only two of those currently before the committee have more. However, this does not mean it is inevitable the Parliament will take forward further work. More can still be done to help that happen.

Next steps

The Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee will consider at one of its meetings after the summer whether or not to take forward further work. It might decide to:

  • get written information or hear from the Scottish Government, other organisations, or people
  • write to us for more information or to invite us to talk to the committee about the petition
  • “refer” (send) the petition to another committee
  • recommend actions for the Scottish Government
  • ask for a debate about the petition in the Chamber
  • close the petition: this would mean nothing more is done.

We want to avoid the last of these.

The Committee will consider the petition and the supporting submission we have already sent in: linked here. We believe it will also have initial comments from the Scottish Government, and any comments we have on those.  There is also an initial SPICe briefing.

Sending supporting submissions

The Committee will also be able to consider any supplementary supporting submissions sent in by other people. These may make a substantial difference to whether a further investigation is taken forward.  

Submissions must meet certain rules which are set out here and should be sent to the email address in this link. They must be no more than 800 words: they can just be a short note of support.  They must keep to the subject of the petition.

Our supporting submission discusses our core issue of data accuracy, credibility and trust but also notes:

  • the need for more clarity about how police, prosecutors and court recording practice may affect expectations of what language victims should use
  • the need for more clarity about how police, prosecutors and court reporting may affect how perpetrators are reported in the media.
  • that although the focus of the petition is rape and attempted rape, similar issues arise for other offending which has a significant sex imbalance in perpetration, particularly other sexual offending and violent crime.

If you are sending a supporting submission, you may find it helpful to use our note as a starting point and focus on one or two specific points. Where people are able to speak from particular personal experience or professional expertise, that can also help. Submissions are not limited to people in Scotland.

The committee will only consider submissions it can publish, but the committee clerks advise that submissions can be published anonymised, and we understand that they treat sympathetically any requests for anonymity made for good reason.

Contacting MSPs

MSPs can attend the Committee to urge them to take work forward, or otherwise let the Committee know they support further work. MSP support can be very helpful in  encouraging further action.

You can write to all your 8 MSPs explaining why this matters to you and asking them to support further investigation into the issue and to attend the meeting.

If you put in a submission, you can copy that to your MSPs, if you are happy for them to know you have sent it.

Deadlines

The Committee’s meeting schedule after the summer is not yet available and we don’t know how quickly they will get to ours. The Parliament is in recess until 29 August.

There is no deadline for sending in submissions: these can sent in at any time while the petition is being considered. But to be useful at the committee’s first meeting about the petition, submissions will need to be submitted in time to be reviewed against the written submission guidance and processed by the clerks before the meeting.

We have been reassured that we will be given two weeks’ notice of the meeting where it is first considered, and will share that when we are told. 

Meantime, to be sure of being taken into account at the first stage, we suggest submissions are sent in by 29 August 2021. In practice, there may be more time to do this, but we won’t know for a while how much longer.

Initial responses from police and government

The initial response from Police Scotland to the media was that it had no record of any case arising where a male person had been charged with rape or attempted rape, but recorded as female. We are concerned that the lack of cases to date may be suggested by the government and others as a reason not to make the straightforward policy change needed now to avoid the possibility arising in the future, before any damage is done to data integrity here. We do not know how far other types offending statistics may already have been affected by similar policies.

The Scottish Government has commented to the media “Working with Police Scotland, we would consider the details of any public petition presented to us on recording sex in cases of rape or attempted rape.”

Making an impact

Getting the petition this far means that the parliament and government will already have to give this issue some attention, but the most impact will come from the Committee deciding to take forward further work.

Thank-you in advance to everyone who is able to write to the Committee and/or to their MSPs to encourage this.

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