Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today urged the First Minister to report to Parliament on what actions the Scottish Government are taking to improve services for victims of rape and sexual crime in the Northern Isles.
The demand follows a damning report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), which reported on the concerns, recently brought to light by Rape Crisis, that rape victims in the Northern Isles do not report attacks because they have to travel to the mainland for forensic tests.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Mr McArthur referred to the report, which found that the current travel requirements “compound the trauma of the victim”. The First Minister said Mr McArthur was right to highlight the issue of victims in the islands, and confirmed there will be a ministerial statement when parliament returns after the Easter recess.
The HMICS report attributed the unacceptable journeys to the “absence of a forensic medical service on Orkney”, and recorded victims travelling south are unable “to wash, compounding an already traumatic experience.”
Following the exchanges in Holyrood, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur said:
“Today’s report from HMICS lays bare the extent to which urgent action is needed to address failings in forensic services across the country. The Inspectorate is right to conclude that some of the practices it has found are “unacceptable”, falling well short of best practice.
“The report is also right to highlight once again the problems faced by victims of rape and sexual assault living in the Northern Isles. The trips survivors in Orkney and Shetland have to contend with in order to undergo forensic examination can only compound their trauma. It is also makes it less likely that those affected by such attacks will come forward and report these crimes.
“I welcome the First Minister’s assurance, therefore, that an urgent update will be provided to parliament after the Easter recess on steps being taken by Ministers to address the problems identified in this report. This update must also include details of how forensic testing will be carried out in the Northern Isles so as to avoid victims having to travel south.
“HMICS’ report does not make comfortable reading for anyone. Hopefully it will provide the necessary spur to action to ensure that those victims of rape or sexual assault have the services and support they need, wherever they are in Scotland.”