Improving forensic services for victims of sexual assault in Scotland - consultation response

In May 2019 the RCPCH Child Protection Subcommittee (Scotland) responded to Equally Safe, a consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault.

The committee welcomes the statutory duty placed on health boards  which will provide governance over the provision of forensic services, however, does not support self-referral for children and young people.

The consultation seeks views on how legislation might improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault including views on “self-referral”, where a victim chooses not to report the crime to police, or is undecided, but wishes to undergo a forensic examination and access healthcare. 

Our response

  • Health Boards also have a duty under child protection procedures to report any assault and this must be clearly outlined in any legislation.
  • Self-referral would be in direct conflict with child protection procedure.
  • There is a  need to ensure there is a clear forensic chain of evidence from health to police in these cases.
  • Rural and island communities, by definition,  will have services that ‘look’ very different to other services.

Our recommendations

  • We do not consider self-referral an appropriate pathway for children and young people because of the duty to consider child protection and involve police in all cases of alleged rape or sexual assault.
  • Legislation should specify that examinations are carried out in premises suitable for the age and developmental stage of the child or young person.
  • Expectations are managed for those living in rural and island communities.
  • There should be provision of video recorded evidence for child victims.

We respond to a wide range of consultations to ensure that the College’s position, and ultimately children’s health, is represented. Members can get involved in current consultations by contacting the RCPCH Scotland team on