Bill to support health needs of sexual assault victims

The legislation would allow victims to self-refer to NHS facilities and have forensic evidence taken.

A Scottish Parliament committee has backed a Bill which aims to support the health needs of sexual assault victims.

The legislation would allow victims over 16 to self-refer to NHS facilities and have forensic evidence taken, before deciding if and when they want to report the incident to the police.

The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill was considered by Holyrood’s Health Committee earlier this year.

During an evidence session, the chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland branded the current arrangements “an embarrassment”.

Sandy Brindley said access to female doctors and delays to forensic examinations were common problems experienced by complainers.

The Bill also emphasises the healthcare needs of sexual offence victims.

Committee convener Lewis Macdonald said the MSPs would like to see the legislation strengthened so victims had more information when deciding whether to report.

He said: “Victims of sexual offences should be able to access medical treatment in as simple a manner as possible.

“Our committee supports this legislation and believes it is a much-needed step forward in putting victims needs and rights first, whilst also improving access to forensic medical examinations.

“This Bill empowers victims, placing the decision of whether to report incidents in their hands and this principle is one that is strongly supported by the committee.

“However, we want to make sure that those who do self-refer are making an informed choice, and providing a statutory right to independent advocacy would assist in achieving this.”