A WOMAN who alleges that she was the victim of a gang rape failed

yesterday in her attempt to bring what would have been only the third

private prosecution in Scotland this century.

Loading article content

Three High Court judges ruled that the 25-year-old woman had failed to

establish the very special circumstances required under Scots law to

justify a private prosecution.

The woman claimed that she was attacked in her home in Dunfermline in

September 1992 by Mr Alistair Forsyth, 24, Mr Graeme Naismith, 24, and

Mr Christopher Blount, 22, all from Dunfermline.

They claimed the woman had consented to sex and the case was set down

for trial at the High Court in Kirkcaldy in September 1993. However,

because of a mistake by police in England, a vital Crown witness failed

to turn up.

The Crown asked Lord Clyde for an extension of the 12-month time limit

within which cases on indictment must be brought. This was refused and

the case collapsed.

The woman brought a Bill for Criminal Letters, the method of applying

for a private prosecution in Scotland.

Normally, criminal proceedings in Scotland are brought by the Crown

under the direction of the Lord Advocate and private prosecutions have

to be sanctioned by the High Court.

In this case, the Lord Advocate, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, told the

High Court at Edinburgh that he would not oppose the private prosecution

if the court thought it was competent.

Yesterday, Lord Ross, the Lord Justice Clerk, who heard arguments in

the case with Lords Marnoch and Brand, said counsel for the three men

had argued that a private prosecution would be incompetent.

That was because the 12-month period within which an accused must be

brought to trial after a first court appearance applied to a private


Lord Ross disagreed. He said the court was satisfied that the Criminal

Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975, which governed the situation, applied

only to public prosecutions.

However, there also had to be special circumstances to justify a

private prosecution.

Mr Andrew Hardie QC, Dean of the Faculty, appearing for the woman,

argued that special circumstances did exist in this case.

When the original case was called and the judge refused to extend the

12-month period, the Crown had dropped the case and not appealed against

the decision.

Mr Hardie also argued that the Crown should not have waited until the

12-month period had almost expired before trying to get the trial under


He added that the nature of the crime, a rape alleged to have been

committed by three accused, was in itself a special circumstance.

However, Lord Ross said: ''It is well recognised that private

prosecution is allowed only in exceptional cases. . . but I find it

difficult to see what other special circumstances can be said to be


The circumstances here were not as strong as those which existed 14

years ago when Carole X brought a private prosecution in the GLasgow

rape case in 1982, after she was raped and slashed with a razor in a

Portakabin in the East End of Glasgow. The case ended with one of her

attackers being jailed for 12 years after a trial at the High Court in


The only other private prosecution this century which got off the

ground was in a fraud case involving the shipment of coal.