Forensic medical services for victims of sexual offences

Improving healthcare services for victims of sexual offences is a priority for us.

We want to make sure that timely healthcare support, including a forensic medical examination, is available to victims of rape and sexual assault, and child sexual abuse, whether or not they have reported the crime to the police.

We published a consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault in February 2019.

The consultation, which closed in May 2019, addressed recommendations made by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICS) in its 2017 report: strategic overview of the provision of forensic medical services to victims of sexual crime. This highlighted that services need to improve and suggested that the legal position for aspects of service provision lacked clarity.

Our consultation asked for views on introducing direct statutory functions on NHS boards to provide forensic medical services and healthcare support to all victims, including those who have chosen not to report the crime to police, or are undecided, but wish to undergo examination and access support.

In addition to the consultation, we held a series of stakeholder meetings with representatives from health and justice organisations, medical professionals and the third sector to ask their views. Where we have been given permission to do so, we have published responses on our consultation hub. We have also published an analysis of the key findings.

In line with views expressed in consultation, the Programme for Government 2019-2020 set out our intention to introduce a Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill this parliamentary year. Amongst other things, the Bill will establish a national self-referral model for victims of sexual crime who wish to have a forensic medical examination without first reporting to the police.

We continue to engage with key partners to help us develop policy proposals and equalities and other impact assessments. This will ensure the Bill is fully considered, supports delivery and is informed by those who have lived experienced of rape or sexual assault.

Policy background

Our Programme for Government 2018 to 2019 set out a commitment to consult on proposals to clarify in legislation the responsibility for forensic medical examinations to ensure that access to healthcare, as well as a forensic medical examination for victims of rape and sexual assault, is an NHS priority and consistently provided for throughout Scotland.

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Scotland, Dr Catherine Calderwood, chairs a taskforce to provide national leadership for the improvement of healthcare and forensic medical services for victims of sexual crime.

The Taskforce vision, as set out in its five year work plan published in October 2017, is to support health boards to ensure consistent, person-centred, trauma informed healthcare and forensic medical services and access to recovery for anyone who has experienced rape or sexual assault in Scotland.  

The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual offences) Bill follows our consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault. The bill will deliver against two of the ten HMICS recommendations. This underpins the work of the CMO Taskforce which has the wider responsibility to deliver against the remaining eight HMICS recommendations.