Forensic examinations: self-referral may be welcomed but has problems, says Faculty
ISSUES have been identified by the Faculty in a planned new system to allow complainers in sexual offence cases to refer themselves for forensic examination.
The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill transfers responsibility for examination and retention services from Police Scotland to health boards, and introduces self-referral by those who have not reported a crime to the police.
The Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee is considering the Bill, and, in a submission, the Faculty said the Bill gave rise to “significant concerns” about the management and delivery of vital services within the criminal justice system.
“The Bill makes no provision for the proper conduct of examination services and retention services by the health boards, being functions which are presently the responsibility of Police Scotland. In the Faculty’s view, there is accordingly a gap in the legislation as it relates to the quality and practical delivery of those services by the health boards,” the Faculty stated.
In relation to self-referral, the submission stated: “The Faculty does envisage problems with this process…however it may be the option of self-referral being more widely available would be welcomed by persons wishing to be forensically examined.”
Currently, a police constable is generally present during an examination of a complainer, and oversees the collection of samples and their safe transit to a laboratory.
“Where a person self-refers, however, no constable will be present for the examination. The practical implications for the integrity and security of samples collected during the examination are obvious,” said the Faculty.
“At present, the attendance of a constable or constables, together with the presence of the forensic medical examiner, ensures that the evidential chain can be corroborated back to the point of being obtained…in a self-referral situation, it remains necessary to corroborate the collection of any samples. This means that another person, aside from the FME, is required…that person must be qualified or trained in the proper handling and transmission of evidential samples and other material, at least to the standards which operate within Police Scotland.”