Pilot project underway after agreement between Police Scotland and NHS
Victims of sexual crime will be spared having to undergo medical examinations in police offices as part of a new pilot project.
As it stands, individuals who report a rape or sexual assault in the west of Scotland are taken to Archway, the country’s only sexual assault referral centre, for a medical examination.
Should the unit be unavailable for any reason, police have often been forced to revert to the previous practice of conducting examinations in police offices.
Detective Superintendent Louise Raphael, who heads up the national rape taskforce at Police Scotland, admits the practice is “more common than we would like to see”.
“What we don’t want to see in this day and age is medical examinations taking place in police offices,” she says.
“There are a lot of police offices that have got a certain area set aside and you wouldn’t recognise them as being a police office. But, nonetheless, I think in this day and age, it’s not appropriate for victims to be taken to a police office to get medically examined.”
Forensic medical provision to victims of sexual crime transferred from the police to the NHS on 1 April.
As part of that transfer, Police Scotland has struck an agreement with NHS Lanarkshire that means, in the event of Archway not being accessible, examinations will be carried out in hospital instead.
“The pilot that we have embarked on with Lanarkshire is that, rather than using Motherwell police office as an examination suite, to utilise Wishaw General Hospital. It is just changing the location – everything else stays the same, but the NHS is providing that facility.
“It is a much more anonymised process because it is a 24-hour service within the hospital environment so you could be in there for anything. It’s a clinical environment [and] it is a much more appropriate environment than a police office.
“We’re embarking on that as a trial period to see how that works. And clearly if that works as we would expect it to work, then that starts to become a model that could be replicated elsewhere throughout Scotland.”
Meanwhile, Holyrood can confirm that two new members have been added to a review group assessing safeguards in the event that corroboration is abolished.
Lord Bonomy’s reference group, which held its first meeting on 7 April, now features representation from Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid.