Victim of Sexual Assault Calling for Elimination of ‘Inhumane’ Interrogation Practices Following Lawsuit

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A sexual assault survivor who was the first in Scotland to sue over her treatment in court has slammed the justice system for not preventing others from experiencing similar trauma.

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Shannon, a 28-year-old sex attack victim, initiated legal action against Scotland’s top law officer, Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, arguing that her treatment during cross-examination in the courtroom violated her human rights. She claimed that the grueling questioning she faced was “inhumane,” leading to severe mental distress, and accused her of drug dealing.

The case was settled out of court in 2021, with Shannon receiving £35,000 in damages, but the resolution did not admit liability.

Shannon’s story has resurfaced after Ellie Wilson, another rape survivor, filed a complaint against her rapist’s defense lawyer, Lorenzo Alonzi, for crossing ethical boundaries during her trial. The Faculty of Advocates upheld Wilson’s complaint earlier this month, agreeing that Alonzi’s aggressive questioning went beyond acceptable limits.

Ellie, 26, said she felt belittled and almost doubted her own identity during the trial before her attacker, Daniel McFarlane, was found guilty of rape.

Shannon is now urging the justice system to provide better protections for victims in courtrooms.

“It’s hard to believe this is still happening,” Shannon said. “I went through this ordeal in 2019, and five years later, victims are still facing this kind of treatment. Defense lawyers have a job to do, but victims shouldn’t feel like they are the ones on trial.”

The criticism comes as the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill progresses through the Scottish parliament, aiming to improve the experience of victims and witnesses in the justice system.

Six SNP MSPs refused to support the Bill during its first parliamentary hurdle, signaling potential resistance within the government.

Shannon’s case highlighted the need for better treatment of victims within the judicial system. She was sexually assaulted by Gavin MacDonald, 56, in Bathgate, West Lothian, in August 2017. During the trial, defense lawyer Aitken’s questioning focused on the length of her clothing, adding to Shannon’s trauma.

MacDonald was sentenced to 27 months in prison in 2019 after being found guilty at Livingston Sheriff Court.

Shannon has been active in advising authorities on how to improve the court system for victims and has worked on aspects of the new Bill that aim to enhance the fairness, clarity, and transparency of criminal case decisions.

“What has to happen for this to change?” Shannon asked. “Does someone need to be pushed to their breaking point before the system learns its lesson and takes action?”

In 2022, Daniel McFarlane, 25, from Inverness, was sentenced to five years in jail for raping Ellie Wilson between December 2017 and February 2018.

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