Forensic medical services for victims of sexual offences
The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) chairs a Rape and Sexual Assault Taskforce to provide national leadership for the improvement of healthcare and forensic medical services for victims of sexual crime.
The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021 (FMS Act) came into force on 1 April 2022. The Act underpins the work of the CMO taskforce and establishes a legal framework for consistent access to “self-referral” where a victim can access healthcare and request a forensic examination without first having to make a report to the police. Self-referral is available to anyone aged 16 or over, subject to professional judgement.
The following secondary legislation came into force on 1 April 2022:
- The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021 Commencement Regulations 2022 (this commences the FMS act in its entirety)
- The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 (Commencement No. 9) Order 2022 (
- The Forensic Medical Services (Modification of Functions of Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Supplementary Provision) Regulations 2022 (these regulations amend the
- The Forensic Medical Services (Self-Referral Evidence Retention Period) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 (this sets the length of time that health boards are allowed to keep any evidence collected in the course of a self-referral forensic medical examination before they must destroy it)
We ran a full public consultation between 5 February and 30 April 2021 and invited views on whether people agreed with our proposed retention period of 26 months. Based on responses to the consultation and all the evidence gathered, the regulations set a retention period of 26 months. Where permission has been given, responses have been published along with an analysis report.
To accompany the secondary legislation, three updated impact assessments were published:
- Child Rights and Welfare Impact Assessment (CRWIA)
- Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA)
- Equality Impact Assessment Results (EQIA)
A piece of secondary legislation made under section 104 of the Scotland Act 1998 came into force via the UK Parliament on 1 April 2022:
- The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2022 (
The Bill for the FMS Act was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in November 2019. You can read the news story about the introduction of the Bill, the news release about the Bill passing Stage 1 and the news release about the Bill being passed.
An easy read summary of the Bill was created to ensure as many people as possible could understand what the Bill is about. Copies of the Bill, the policy memorandum and other accompanying documents are available from the Scottish Parliament’s website. There is also a publication on the Bill of the Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee.
Five impact assessments were published in November 2019 to accompany the introduction of the Bill:
- child rights and wellbeing impact assessment
- data protection impact assessment
- equality impact assessment
- fairer Scotland duty assessment
- islands communities impact assessment
A revised data protection impact assessment was published in November 2020.
The FMS Act 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 2019 consultation paper.
The 2019 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.
Where we have been given permission to do so, we have published responses to the 2019 consultation on our consultation hub. We have also published an analysis of the key 2019 consultation findings.
The FMS Act 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.
Rape Crisis Scotland can provide practical advice and emotional support for anyone affected by sexual violence, no matter when or how it happened. The Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline can be reached on 08088 01 03 02 or alternatively, can be emailed at email@example.com. For further information you can visit the Rape Crisis Scotland website.
Victim Support Scotland offer free confidential, emotional, practical support and information for anyone affected by crime. Their trained volunteers can provide support in a number of ways. To find out more you may wish to visit the Victim Support Scotland website or you can contact their helpline on 0800 160 1985.