Bid to allow rape victims to self-refer for forensic examination launched at Holyrood

Rape Crisis Scotland chief executive Sandy Brindley said giving survivors control of such procedures is "so important".
Rape Crisis Scotland chief executive Sandy Brindley said giving survivors control of such procedures is "so important".
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A proposed new law to enable rape victims to refer themselves for forensic medical examination without having to contact police has been lodged at Holyrood.


Some health boards currently offer self-referral for adult victims of rape and sexual assault, but the new Bill would make this a legal duty across Scotland.

When self-referring, victims can have a forensic medical examination without first having reported the incident to police.

Any evidence collected is stored, allowing victims to decide whether to lodge a police report in their own time.

They can also have health concerns addressed, such as requirements for psychological support, sexual health tests and emergency contraception.

Rape Crisis Scotland chief executive Sandy Brindley said giving survivors control of such procedures is "so important".

The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Scotland Bill proposes putting police referral to health boards on a statutory footing and sets out rules on collecting, storing and transferring potential evidence.

• READ MORE: Video to help rape victims negotiate Scots justice system launched

Ministers have also announced £200,000 for a pilot scheme at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for nurse sexual offence examiners.

The project would enable trained nurses to carry out forensic medical examinations for sexual crimes and give evidence in court - a process currently restricted to doctors.

Ms Brindley said: "We welcome this significant and important step forward and believe that when law, this has the potential to transform how forensic services are provided to survivors of sexual violence across Scotland.

"Sexual crimes are fundamentally abuses of power and about taking someone's control - which is why it is so important and encouraging that this Bill recognises and works to counter this by making sure that survivors are in control of procedures and processes around their evidence and property.

"Adopting a trauma-informed approach that focuses on the individual, on their needs and their healthcare, is vital and an important element of this is moving to using nurses as forensic examiners. This is a key development, and one which could make a huge difference."

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, who introduced the Bill, said: "By ensuring the choice to self-refer is available consistently across Scotland, we hope that people who might currently be reluctant to make a police report are encouraged to access appropriate NHS services and get the support they need at a time of significant trauma."

Lord Advocate James Wolffe welcomed the nurse sexual offence examiner pilot project.

He said it could enhance services provided, adding: "It will allow us to monitor and evaluate the scheme and seek to establish the role's viability within the criminal justice system."