Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur has welcomed a commitment from the Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf MSP to investigate ways of supporting training of those in Orkney seeking to be involved in providing forensic services in Orkney.
At Justice Questions in the Scottish Parliament earlier today, Mr McArthur highlighted that efforts to establish a forensic service capability locally were at risk of being held back by the cost of sending individuals south for training, in addition to the accommodation costs and time off work.
After a damning report last year by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) shone on a light on shortcomings in forensic services in many parts of the country, steps have been taken to try address the situation. In the Northern Isles, HMICS found that attacks are often not reported because victims are put off by the prospect of having to travel to the Scottish mainland for forensic examination.
Mr McArthur pressed the Justice Secretary to look at localised training who have responded to NHS Orkney’s call for expressions of interest in joining the service. In response, Mr Yousaf agreed to explore this option as well as the possibility of assistance to cover the travel and accommodation costs, if it is found that training has to take place further south.
Speaking after the exchange at question time, Mr McArthur said:
“As I have said on many occasions, I strongly believe that it is simply unacceptable that victims of rape or sexual assault living in our islands should be required to get on a plane and travel south for forensic examination.
“It is very encouraging, therefore, to see the progress made over recent months, including a positive response to NHS Orkney’s recent call for interest in getting involved in the provision of a forensics service.
“This work can be highly specialised, of course, and appropriate training will always be needed. It is important, however, that barriers are not put in the way of making this happen.
“The Justice Secretary’s commitment to look into whether or not training can be provided in Orkney is therefore welcome as it would certainly help reduce costs and the time individuals need to be away from home and work. If this is not possible, however, Mr Yousaf indicated his willingness to look at what support might be provided to meet the costs of travel and accommodation.
“I hope that this constructive approach allows NHS Orkney and others involved to build on the momentum towards delivery of this vital service”.