Victims of rape and sexual assault will be able to refer themselves for forensic examination without having to report a crime to police, as a result of measures outlined in a new Scottish Government Bill.
The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Scotland Bill contains a number of proposed changes including introducing clear legal responsibilities for health boards to provide direct access to forensic medical services for victims in a process known as ‘self-referral’, and establishing clear rights for victims to know what will happen with evidence taken from them.
This evidence may support any future criminal justice process, if a victim does not wish to report the incident they have suffered to the police or is undecided about doing so.
In addition, Ministers have announced £200,000 of funding for an initiative to develop the role of nurse sexual offence examiners in Scotland. This will allow appropriately qualified and experienced nurses to undertake forensic medical examinations of victims of sexual crime and give evidence in court, something only doctors can do currently.
Welcoming publication of the Bill, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:
“Improving access to healthcare services for victims of rape and sexual assaults is central to our determination to provide sensitive support to those who need it.”
Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, 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.”
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has been closely involved in the proposals to develop the nurse examiner workforce in Scotland.
The Lord Advocate said:
“Scottish prosecutors take crimes of rape and sexual offences extremely seriously. COPFS is committed to contributing to improvement of the criminal justice system.”