NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Call for rape examinations action in Orkney and Shetland

Woman with head in hands Image copyright Science Photo Library

Some rape victims in the Northern Isles do not report it because they have to travel to the mainland without washing for forensic examination, it has been claimed.

Rape Crisis Scotland is calling for specialist facilities to be made available in Orkney and Shetland.

Support workers say it would spare victims the ordeal of travelling by boat or plane under police escort.

The Scottish government said forensic facilities were being reviewed.

Rape Crisis Scotland said the lack of forensic examination facilities in Orkney or Shetland was adding to the trauma women had already suffered.

In a statement it said: "They are advised not to wash, drink or eat before they are examined (as evidence may be lost) before they are taken with a police escort on a passenger flight or ferry to Aberdeen.

"This is a completely unacceptable situation - often, the first thing people want to do after being raped is wash, and the length of delay of having to travel without being able to wash can make an already traumatic situation even worse."

The charity said it was also getting feedback from women about how difficult they find having a male examiner, which is the case in about half of examinations conducted in police stations.

"The very least we should be able to offer survivors in more remote situations is sensitive services that are appropriate without having to travel to the mainland," it said.

'Barrier' to justice

Shetland Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott said action was essential.

Mr Scott said: "We want to make it as easy as possible to have a successful prosecution in a potential rape trial based on evidence.

"Having a forensic facility on the islands is essential for rape survivors and women who have been sexually assaulted.

"The reality of having to get a plane or ferry down to Aberdeen in the most horrible of circumstances must be a barrier to anyone thinking of reporting a sexual assault to the police."

The Scottish government said it was committed to tackling the "heinous crime" of rape and supporting victims to ensure they are treated with sensitivity when reporting a crime.

A spokeswoman said: "We are taking bold steps to improve the way the justice system responds to sexual crimes and we have committed to reviewing the way forensic examinations are undertaken to ensure they are done sensitively and appropriately.

"We have provided an additional £1.85m for Rape Crisis Scotland to enhance awareness and the specialist support available for survivors of sexual violence.

"We have also committed resources to NHS Scotland to look at forensic examination services currently being provided for victims across the country and tell us where improvements and change is required."

A dedicated service to support people who been victims of rape or sexual abuse. was launched in Orkney for the first time last year.

Orkney Rape Crisis provides support, information and therapeutic help.

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