Publication - Consultation paper

Equally Safe: consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault

Published: 15 Feb 2019
Directorate:
Justice Directorate
Part of:
Health and social care
ISBN:
9781787816008

We are seeking your views on proposals to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault.

44 page PDF

475.1 kB

44 page PDF

475.1 kB

Contents
Equally Safe: consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault
Ministerial foreword

44 page PDF

475.1 kB

Ministerial foreword

We recognise that a rape or sexual assault is a very traumatic experience both for the person affected as well as for those around them. We are committed to doing all that we can to help improve the experience of victims of sexual crime, throughout their health and justice journey. We know this can help to minimise unnecessary trauma and can have a positive effect on their recovery and on their continued engagement with the justice process.

In April 2017, Scottish Ministers asked the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Catherine Calderwood, to chair a Taskforce to provide national leadership to help improve the NHS response to victims of sexual crime. The Taskforce vision, as set out in the 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 Scottish Government has committed £8.5 million over 3 years to support delivery of this work.

In addition, in December 2017, Healthcare Improvement Scotland developed and published National Standards which support the Scottish Government's vision to ensure that the same high level of care is available to everyone, regardless of the geographical location or an individual's personal circumstances such as sex or age.

A forensic medical examination might be important in providing information to help the police investigate a crime when a complaint of a sexual offence is made. Evidence gathered as part of this process can be significant in any future criminal proceedings. However, in addition to the requirements to gather evidence, the utmost priority is to ensure that anyone who has been the victim of rape or sexual assault can access timely healthcare support in a person centred environment and be supported by an appropriately trained and trauma informed workforce. Depending on what has happened to an individual and when, if it is appropriate, they should be offered a forensic medical examination as part of that healthcare response. We are clear that access to a forensic medical examination, wider healthcare interventions and support should be available whether or not the victim has reported, or is unsure about reporting the crime to the police.

In March 2017, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland published a strategic overview of the provision of forensic medical services for victims of sexual crime and made a number of recommendations to improve this. The strategic overview made two specific recommendations about the need to provide greater clarity around the statutory responsibility for the function and delivery of forensic medical services. One related to the current agreement between Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and NHS Scotland to deliver healthcare and forensic medical services and the other was about clarifying the legal position for obtaining and retaining forensic samples when a victim chooses not to report to the police at the point of seeking healthcare assistance.

This document fulfils a commitment made in the Programme for Government 2018-19 to consult on proposals to clarify these issues in legislation. This is a key priority for the Chief Medical Officer's Taskforce and will help to ensure that there is no ambiguity about who is responsible for the delivery and continuous improvement of these services going forward.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland published a progress review in December 2018, which welcomed the progress being made by the Chief Medical Officer's Taskforce and commended the energy, enthusiasm and dedication of the professionals involved. That progress review also recognised the joint strategic leadership across health and justice to improving healthcare services for victims of sexual crime. We recognise that there is more to do, but remain firmly committed to this joint approach. The recent 2018 First Report and Recommendations of the First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls calls for a world-leading process for complainers of sexual violence including trauma informed forensic medical examination, and that is our ambition.

We will ensure that any legislative change brought forward as a result of this consultation exercise is informed by the views of people with lived experience of rape and sexual assault and would encourage them and those around them to respond if they feel able to do so. We would also welcome the views of healthcare and justice professionals, as well as other key partners, including the third sector, who we know strive every day to deliver a person centred, trauma informed response to people who have experienced rape and sexual assault in Scotland.

Jeanne Freeman OBE MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport

Jeanne Freeman OBE MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport

Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice

Humza Yousaf MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice


Contact

Email: Keir.Liddle@gov.scot