If passed, the Bill would introduce changes to how forensic services are provided to survivors of sexual violence across Scotland.
The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Scotland Bill contains a number of proposed changes including introducing clear legal responsibilities for health boards to provide direct access to forensic medical services for victims in a process known as ‘self-referral’.
It also seeks to establish clear rights for victims to know what will happen with evidence taken from them.
Welcoming publication of the Bill, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:
“Improving access to healthcare services for victims of rape and sexual assaults is central to our determination to provide sensitive support to those who need it.
“By ensuring the choice to self-refer is available consistently across Scotland, we hope that people who might currently be reluctant to make a police report are encouraged to access appropriate NHS services and get the support they need at a time of significant trauma.”
Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said:
“We welcome this significant and important step forward and believe that when law, this has the potential to transform how forensic services are provided to survivors of sexual violence across Scotland.
“Sexual crimes are fundamentally abuses of power and about taking someone’s control – which is why it is so important and encouraging that this bill recognises and works to counter this by making sure that survivors are in control of procedures and processes around their evidence and property.
“Adopting a trauma-informed approach that focusses on the individual, on their needs and their health care is vital, and an important element of this is moving to using nurses as forensic examiners. This is a key development, and one which could make a huge difference.”