Publication - Consultation analysis

Equally Safe - forensic medical services: consultation analysis

Analysis of responses to our consultation on the retention period for evidence collected in the course of self-referral forensic medical services.

Equally Safe - forensic medical services: consultation analysis
Summary of Responses

Summary of Responses

19. This summary collates views expressed by respondents to both versions of the consultation paper. A breakdown of the responses given to the two individual papers is available at Annex B.

Supportive of the recommended 26 month retention period

Quantitative overview

20. 50.8% (32 out of 63 respondents) supported the 26 month retention period.

Overview of responses

21. Although reasons for supporting the 26 month retention period were not specifically sought, several organisations gave their reasons for supporting the proposed retention period. The comments indicated that 26 months was considered to be proportionate. The proposed timeframe struck the right balance in terms of providing victims with a reasonable amount of time to make a police report whilst considering the capacity of NHS facilities for long term storage.

Disagreed with 26 months, suggesting a shorter retention period

Quantitative overview

22. 4.8% (3 out of 63 respondents) disagreed with the 26 month retention period and suggested a shorter period.

  • The periods suggested were:
    • 11 months (1 out of 3 respondents)
    • 1 year (1 out of 3 respondents)
    • 15 months (and certainly no longer than 18 months) (1 out of 3 respondents)

Overview of responses

23. It was pointed out that retaining DNA for longer than was necessary could impinge on an individual's human rights. There could be a long period between an incident taking place and the subsequent report to the police. This could result in non-forensic evidence being lost (for example CCTV footage and reduced quality of witness recall) which could be detrimental to a successful investigation and/or prosecution.

A sample of illustrative quotes that typify the themes identified in this section:

"It must be remembered that a retention period of potentially 26 months is not the end point, it is in fact merely the starting point of the police investigation." (Faculty of Advocates)

Disagreed with 26 months, suggesting a longer retention period

Quantitative overview

24. 36.5% (23 out of 63 respondents) disagreed with the 26 month retention period and suggested it should be longer, 5 of these respondents did not provide a specific suggested retention period.

18 respondents suggested retention periods longer than 26 months; there was no consensus on what this should be:

  • 2 years 6 months (30 months) (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • 4 years 2 months (for specific groups of people) (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • 4-5 years (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • Around 5 years (3 out of 18 respondents)
  • 5 years 2 months (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • Minimum of 5 years (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • 5-10 years (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • 10 years (2 out of 18 respondents)
  • 10 years 2 months (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • 20 years (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • As long as possible (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • As long as the victim wants it to be (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • Until survivor either reports or requests destruction (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • Indefinitely (1 out of 18 respondents)
  • Forever (1 out of 18 respondents)

Overview of responses

Giving people sufficient time to report

25. Several comments emphasised that victims are individuals and some people often require a longer time period to come to terms with the incident before reporting to the police. It was pointed out that individuals may need time to progress with their recovery before gaining the strength to proceed with the investigation and/or prosecution process. A few individual respondents, who indicated that they had lived experience, concurred with this.

26. A few individual respondents expressed concerns that women in long term abusive relationships with a perpetrator may not report to the police for some time given fears for their own safety and/or that of their children if they did so.

27. A few organisational responses highlighted that people with learning disabilities may not know what services are available to them because of both a lack of accessible information and a lack of education around relationships and safe sex. It was felt that a longer time period would be beneficial to avoid people feeling rushed into decision making.

A sample of illustrative quotes that typify the themes identified in this section:

  • "The circumstances and context of each and every sexual assault are unique to the individual … some of us are outspoken campaigners within months of our attack - others, like me took 5 years to admit I was a rape survivor …" (Individual, anon)
  • "Reporting rates of assault are already low and there is a concern a time limit could create added pressure that would push people into making a decision before they are ready." (Organisation, People First (Scotland))

Maturity of decision making

28. A few respondents suggested that victims who are under 18 at the time of examination should be granted a 26 month retention period from their 18th birthday to allow the person more time to mature and take the opportunity to remove themselves from situations where they may be being influenced by others.

29. A longer retention period was suggested, following a bespoke needs assessment, for certain groups of people for example those aged 16 to 18, who are in care/continuing care, victims of trafficking, those with complex needs or disabilities and those with mental health issues affecting their day-to-day functioning.

A sample of illustrative quotes that typify the themes identified in this section:

  • "…The vulnerability of some older children or young people can be increased due to a contrast between their chronological age, (which triggers a change in their statutory rights and entitlement to services) and their stage of development, which may not correspond to their chronological age, especially where that child has experienced trauma or adversity." (Organisation, CELCIS)

Historic abuse

30. A few respondents raised the subject of historic abuse and that a longer retention period would be beneficial to allow individuals sufficient time to process what has happened and decide whether to report.

Advances in forensic science

31. A few responses highlighted that a longer retention period would allow for advances in forensic science: responses pointed out that such developments have led to offenders being identified years after an assault.

Impact assessments

32. Although no respondents suggested there was a need for further impact assessments some responses pointed to:

  • the need for clear and accessible communication when explaining what the self-referral process involves and what the retention period is.
  • the need to ensure inclusion in the self-referral process across all protected characteristic groups.
  • the importance of people with learning disabilities being able to understand what these services mean for them to avoid exclusion.
  • difficulties experienced by island communities when accessing healthcare and barriers faced by minority groups.

Points raised regardless of retention period suggested

33. This section brings together a range of points that were raised by a variety of respondents, irrespective of their views on the length of the retention period.

Anniversary dates

34. A few respondents noted that the anniversary of assaults can be sensitive for victims and welcomed that consideration had been given to avoiding the end of the retention period falling on the anniversary of an incident.

Clarity of communication with victims

35. Several organisational responses highlighted the need for consistent, accurate, clear and accessible information to be disseminated about the self-referral process and the retention period.

Review of retention period

36. A few respondents welcomed the fact that the retention period was not prescribed within the FMS Act and that there was flexibility in setting this in regulations.

37. Several respondents suggested that the retention period should be reviewed in the future and be adjusted if emerging evidence suggested there was a need to do so. A few respondents suggested that survivor feedback should be considered if the period was reviewed once self-referral services were operational.

A sample of illustrative quotes that typify the themes identified in this section:

  • The retention period agreed nationally should be under review on the basis of evidence and practises ongoing which will be gained in the years ahead. (Organisation, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde)

Contact with victims before the end of the retention period

38. A few respondents suggested that individuals should be contacted before the end of the retention period to end to check what they wanted to do with their evidence. There were a few suggestions that individuals should be given the option to be contacted before the end of the retention period when they presented for a self-referral FME and that sexual violence advocacy workers might act as the contact point in this regard.

A sample of illustrative quotes that typify the themes identified in this section:

  • "I would also want people to have the ability to renew or at least be told that samples were due to be destroyed as time creeps on." (Individual, anon)

Flexible Retention Periods

39. A few respondents suggested that individuals should be allowed to extend the length of time their evidence was held based on their readiness to report or changes to their individual circumstances.

Storage of evidence

40. A few respondents expressed concerns about health boards being responsible for retaining evidence under self-referral and questioned if forensic medical services would be delivered to an acceptable standard.

A sample of illustrative quotes that typify the themes identified in this section:

  • "where a person self-refers no constable will be present for the examination. The practical implications for the integrity and security of samples collected during the examination are obvious." (Individual, anon)

Criminal injuries compensation claims

41. A few respondents mentioned criminal injuries compensation claims. They highlighted the need for individuals to be clear about the implications of the retention period for if they wished to pursue a compensation claim.


Contact

Email: EquallySafeFMS@gov.scot