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

Closed 8 May 2019

Opened 15 Feb 2019

Feedback updated 5 Sep 2019

We asked

We published the Scottish Government consultation ‘Equally Safe: A consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault’ for 12 weeks, between 15 February and 8 May 2019.

We asked for views on introducing direct statutory functions on NHS boards to provide forensic medical services and healthcare support to all victims, including those who have chosen not to report the crime to police, or are undecided, but wish to undergo examination and access support (known as “self-referral”). 

We specifically asked for views on:

  • the taking and retention of samples;
  • the potential impacts of proposals including on island communities, equalities and socio-economically disadvantaged groups;
  • provision for children and young people; and
  • potential financial implications for NHS Scotland health boards and other bodies.

You said

We received 53 responses from 18 individuals and 35 organisations. These included 17 third sector organisations with 10 representing specific groups and 7 focused on victim support. The responses also included 9 from health organisations (including seven health boards), 5 from organisations providing a justice perspective and 2 from local authorities. 

There was broad support for proposals.  Some of the key findings from the consultation include: 

  • 91% respondents agreed there should be a specific statutory duty for Health Boards to provide forensic medical services to victims of rape and sexual assault; 
  • 80% of respondents agreed special provisions should be included to reflect the needs of children and young people
  • the majority of respondents thought that self-referral should not be offered to those under the age of 16;
  • a majority of responses favoured adult victims of rape and sexual assault being offered the option to self-refer;  
  • a number of responses highlighted specific issues faced by vulnerable adults;
  • almost two thirds of respondents raised potential impacts, both positive and potential challenges, in relation to people in rural or island communities;
  • training and premises were identified as potential financial implications, as well as a potential need for further investment in advocacy services for victims of rape and sexual assault. 

Key themes included the value of a statutory duty, the importance of
self-referral routes and the positive impact of embedding trauma-informed care and adopting a health-focused approach to Forensic Medical Services for victims of rape and sexual assault, or child sexual abuse.  Views expressed on how a legislative framework should operate were consistent in the case of police and self-referral.    Respondents highlighted the importance of consent, clear information and communication -  including with regards the storage, transfer and deletion of data.  The importance of  ensuring consistency with existing guidelines victims’ needs was also identified

The Analysis Report also draws on discussions at a consultation workshop hosted by the Scottish Government on 26 March 2019. This invited representatives from Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), NHS Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland to explore the development of a consistent national model for self-referral.  While there was broad support for proposals there was some divergence regarding a retention period for samples.

We did

We have already published those responses where consent was given to do so alongside the consultation paper o the consultation hub: https://consult.gov.scot/equally-safe/equally-safe-improve-forensic-medical-services/consultation/published_select_respondent.

We commissioned independent analysis of the consultation responses from the Lines Between Ltd.  We published the analysis report of responses on the Scottish Government website on 29 August: http://www.gov.scot/ISBN/9781839600647

Subject to the will of Parliament, Scottish Government announced its intention to legislate in this area in the current parliamentary year in the Programme for Government 2019-20.  The Scottish Government will continue to engage with stakeholders to shape the legislation and reach consensus on areas of policy divergence. 

Results updated 22 Feb 2021


Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


This consultation explored how legislation might improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault.  It addressed recommendations made by the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICS) to strengthen the delivery of healthcare and forensic medical services and sought views from health and justice organisations, medical professionals, the third sector and survivors. 

Amongst other things the consultation invited 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.

The consultation ran for 12 weeks and fulfiled a commitment in the Programme for Government 2018-19 to consult on proposals to clarify in legislation issues around forensic medical services. 

Why your views matter

We were consulting to reach out to health and justice organisations, medical professionals, the third sector and survivors to hear their  views on how new legislation might be brought forward to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault.  

The closing date for responses to the consultation exercise passed on 8 May 2019. Results are being carefully considered and a full analysis of responses will be published accordingly. 

We intend to provide updates on the consultation via twitter channel @EquallySafeScot and using #EquallySafeFMS.

Read the consultation paper.


  • Health and Social Care