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 or are undecided about doing so.

To support this ambition, the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill has been introduced by the Scottish Government and is undergoing scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament.  

The Minister for Parliamentary Business has confirmed that the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill is an important Government priority. The Bill continues to proceed to a new timetable and, subject to scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament, it is hoped that it can be passed by the end of the calendar year. Oral evidence sessions at Stage 1 have concluded with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport and the Interim Chief Medical Officer having appeared before the Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee on 23 June 2020. It is expected that the Committee will publish a report on the Bill later in the year. Updates will be posted to this website.

Here is an Easy Read summary of the Bill.

We announced the Bill in our Programme for Government 2019-2020.

Copies of the Bill, a policy memorandum and other accompanying documents are available from the  Scottish Parliament’s website. See also the Bill website of the Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee.  

The Bill underpins the ongoing work of the CMO Rape and Sexual Assault Taskforce , to provide national leadership for the improvement of healthcare and forensic medical services for victims of sexual crime, chaired by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Scotland. 

Read the news story about the introduction of the Bill

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 CMO 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) (Scotland) Bill follows our 2019 consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault. Read the news story relating to the publication of the consultation paper.

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.

The Bill wholly delivers against one and partially against another of the ten HMICS recommendations. The CMO Taskforce has the wider responsibility to deliver against the remaining eight HMICS recommendations.

We have published the following impact assessments for the Bill:

Developments on the Bill can be tracked with twitter hashtag #EquallySafeFMS

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