Orkney MSP Liam McArthur this week urged the Justice Secretary to ensure that no victim of rape or sexual assault in Orkney will be required to travel south for examination.
The call followed a report to Parliament from Michael Matheson MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, on the steps the government is taking to address a highly critical report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS).
The report, alongside findings from Rape Crisis, highlighted shortcomings in forensic services in many parts of the country. In the Northern Isles, it was found that attacks are often not reported because victims are put off by the prospect of having to travel to the mainland for forensic tests.
Addressing MSPs, the Cabinet Secretary recognised the representations made by Mr McArthur and his Shetland colleague, Tavish Scott and welcomed NHS Shetland’s announcement of plans “for a local, victim-centred service to provide forensic examinations and compassionate medical healthcare on the island.”
Responding, Mr McArthur called on the Scottish Government to address the particular issues that arise in Orkney. He said; “Like Shetland and the Western Isles, Orkney is an island setting, but it has different circumstances and different challenges to meet.”
The Cabinet Secretary assured Mr McArthur that “the new national standards” will address the lack of services in Orkney.
Following the exchange, Mr McArthur said:
“I am grateful to the Cabinet Secretary for recognising the concerns that Tavish Scott and I, along with others have been raising. It is simply unacceptable that victims of rape or sexual assault living in Orkney and Shetland should be required to get on a plane and travel south for forensic examination.
“The Taskforce, set up by the Justice Secretary, will develop new national standards, which hopefully will see an end to this practice. It is vital that we have provision of local, victim-centred services across the country, including here in Orkney.
“I have also discussed with Mr Mathieson the need to address similar issues for paediatric services. At present, children and young people from the islands who are victims of violence or abuse are also required to travel south for examination. Likewise, that situation cannot be allowed to continue.”