We were raped by the same man. Now we are all fighting to reform Scotland’s demeaning justice system

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Three women who met after discovering they had all been raped by the same violent attacker have launched an extraordinary campaign to make Scotland’s justice system fairer for victims of crime. 

Hannah Reid, Jennifer McCann and Hannah McLaughlan did not know each other – but formed a powerful bond during a court case against serial sex abuser Logan Doig.

Earlier this year, thanks to evidence provided by the three women and another two of his victims, Doig was jailed for nine-and-a-half years.

Although the women are happy he is behind bars, they have been so appalled by their experiences at every stage of the legal process – from first reporting the crimes through to the delivery of the verdict – that they have drawn up a manifesto for radical change.

Despite having no legal background, the women – a teacher, a community nurse assistant and a healthcare support worker – have taken their proposals to politicians and campaigners at the Scottish parliament.

Hannah McLaughlan, Hannah Reid and Jennifer McCann helped bring their attacker to justice

Hannah McLaughlan, Hannah Reid and Jennifer McCann helped bring their attacker to justice

Logan Doig was convicted of 12 charges including rape and sexual assault

Logan Doig was convicted of 12 charges including rape and sexual assault

Among their demands are greater communication with victims to help make the court process less confusing and intimidating, and a change in the rules to minimise the trauma of aggressive questioning.

Next month they will return to Holyrood to give evidence to the justice committee to try to ensure new laws which are currently being drafted will properly address the needs and concerns of victims.

Even though victims of sexual crimes have the right to anonymity, the women have chosen to be identified to better publicise their campaign.

Last night the group said that, although they only met because of the horrific ordeal each suffered, they are now turning their pain into power. 

Ms Reid said: ‘Our experiences were awful. If we can change things for other people, that’s why we’re doing this.’

Doig, 23, was convicted at the High Court in Edinburgh of 12 charges including rape and sexual assault between 2015 and 2020. 

He will be monitored for three years after his release and will be on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

In 2020, his former girlfriend Ms McLaughlan, who had been raped and sexually assaulted by Doig, reported him to the police after a terrifying incident when he tried to strangle her.

Acting on a hunch, the 25-year-old decided to contact others he had been in a relationship with.

She and two other 23-year-old victims formed a bond to support one another.

As they talked, they realised the true extent of Doig’s violence and told the police everything he had done to them.

Ms McLaughlan said: ‘It was horrifying when we realised what a monster he was and how long this had been going on for.’

Their collective determination to obtain justice saw Doig arrested, charged and eventually jailed.

Yet the women said they felt retraumatised by a justice system which should be more aware of the needs of victims, with more communication, transparency and empathy.

Ms Reid, a nursing assistant before becoming a mother, was only 14 when she met Doig, who started as the ‘perfect boyfriend’ but quickly became possessive and controlling while repeatedly raping her.

She said: ‘The whole experience of the justice system was retraumatising. From when you report to the police until the case goes to court it’s like a dark cloud is following you. 

The process is not victim-centred at all.’

Ms McCann was a 17-year-old college student when she was raped by Doig less than 24 hours after their first date. 

She added: ‘Before going to the police I felt I had stitched up a wound – then reporting it was like someone had taken the scissors to it all over again.

‘Once you leave the police station there’s no immediate support except being given a leaflet as you go. You’re actually on your own and it feels like, “We’ve got what we want from you”.’

As part of their quest for change they attended the Scottish parliament last month to try to shape the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, which is at an early stage.

The women believe victims should have their own legal representation during the justice process to make sure that their rights are upheld and they are in the know as much as the person on trial.

Ms Reid said: ‘We feel it would be very beneficial. As far as we’re concerned, it is not a fair system. It’s designed to be fair for the accused, who is represented. 

We don’t have the same rights as them and throughout the whole process all we heard was, “It’s his right”.’

They also believe the court system ignored their desire to see justice being done. The women were told to stay away from the court at key points of the case, including when Doig was giving evidence and, crucially, when the jury was delivering its verdict, which they feel would have offered them a sense of closure.

Doig was permitted to stay away from court and attend his sentencing via video link, meaning the women were denied the chance to see him being jailed.

Ms McLaughlan said: ‘We were told not to attend the verdict because it doesn’t look good for the jury.

‘We were told not to be there for him or his mum taking the stand because it also doesn’t look good, which was yet another opportunity taken from us.

‘We found out he’d been convicted by a call or email and that doesn’t make it feel real. We wanted to see it with our own eyes.

‘We explained why we wanted him there for sentencing but it wasn’t taken into consideration.’

Another of the women’s key demands is sensitivity training for defence lawyers. 

Each of the women felt vulnerable and violated by aggressive questioning while they were giving evidence. Ms McCann said: ‘I was asked if I had pants on at the time of the attack. 

I had let Logan into my flat wearing pyjamas, shorts and a T-shirt and I was asked, “Did you have pants on?” and “What did you expect letting a boy in at that time of night?”’

Ms Reid described the questions as ‘victim blaming’, adding: ‘One attack happened in my mum and dad’s house. I was asked, “Why didn’t you leave?” or “Why didn’t you tell somebody?”

‘There needs to be stricter guidelines for defence lawyers. 

I don’t understand why rape trials become so personal. If someone is robbed they aren’t asked what they were wearing at the time or are blamed for it.’ Ms McLaughlan said she felt undermined during her evidence and that there was no compassion shown.

She said: ‘At one point I even questioned and doubted myself and I thought, “How am I going to get people to believe me?”

‘It is absolutely disgusting the things they can still say in 2023. 

I think a lot of the public would think we’re past that point and I don’t think they know what it’s like, until they go through it. 

I’d say we’ve not only survived the abuse and rape, we’ve survived going through the justice system.

‘That’s another trauma on a whole other level and nothing can prepare you. 

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget or get over how I was made to feel in that witness box. I felt I was fighting for my life in a room full of strangers to make people believe me.’

Another change the women believe is necessary is the introduction of training for juries in serious cases of rape or assault.

Ms Reid said: ‘There should be some sort of training. You’re picking strangers off the street to listen to someone who has been brutalised, and they aren’t qualified.

‘People aren’t trained how to cope with that information and they have to make a decision that will realistically end somebody’s life in one way or another.’

Crucially, the women want the authorities to communicate more openly with victims – for example, offering information about what to expect while giving evidence, an orientation visit to the court, more frequent updates throughout the prosecution process and greater access to counselling.

Together the women formed an online group called Safe Space – which was intended as a way to support one another and campaign for change. 

Now it has become a contact point for others who are seeking information as they struggle with the justice system.

Ms Reid added: ‘There is a lack of communication, awareness and preparation. 

The sentencing wasn’t explained to us, we didn’t know he’d be eligible for parole halfway through his sentence or what an extended sentence is.

‘I had someone message recently looking for advice ahead of her court case. 

How are people who have been through the justice system the ones who are giving more information to others?’

If Holyrood accepts their recommendations, the Bill could be become law as early as next year. In the meantime the women fear the justice system may discourage other victims from speaking out.

Ms McLaughlan said: ‘I told parliament during the last meeting that if I was to go through this again, would I report? No. And that’s even with a guilty verdict.

‘I would never put myself through that again. 

That is why I’m fighting for change, for the people who come after us. If we can help at least one person, this is worth it.’

Post source: The List

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