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HMICS review ‘has improved’ service to victims of sexual assault

Outgoing Chief HMIC says strategic review led to change in the law

The work of HMICS has helped change the law in Scotland, leading to “tangible improvement” in the way victims of sexual assault have been treated, according to outgoing Chief HMIC Gill Imery.

The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021 comes into force on 1 April 2022.

The Act will provide a statutory basis for health boards to provide forensic medical services for victims of sexual offences and will establish a legal framework for access to “self-referral”, so that a person can access healthcare and request a forensic medical examination without first having to make a report to the police.

Mrs Imery, a former chief superintendent who is leaving as Chief HMIC after four years, said the legislation “was an example of the value inspection can bring” and has resulted in “a consistency and quality of service to people who have experienced this type of trauma.”

The legislation followed a strategic review by the HMICS in 2017 into the provision of forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual crime, which led to the establishment of the Chief Medical Officer’s Taskforce. The Taskforce set out a five-year plan to address the recommendations of the HMICS report, supported by a Scottish Government funding commitment of £11.7 million

Mrs Imery whose successor is Craig Naylor acknowledged that both Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority “experienced leadership turbulence” in the early years after the country’s eight regional forces were amalgamated.

She said “multiple issues” arose from various interpretations of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 and how it should be implemented.

While the situation “has stabilised” she added: “The Scottish Parliament continues to take an active interest in policing, however it is now asserted in the wider context of criminal justice, which I consider to be a positive step given the interdependencies across the system.”

HMICS has also looked at Police Scotland’s arrangements for developing its leaders through training and continuous professional development.

Its report was published In September 2020, and found that leadership roles and remits had expanded to include national and functional responsibilities when Police Scotland was introduced. However there had been a lack of investment in leadership training and continuous professional development since 2013.

The report made recommendations that Police Scotland should improve leadership and training “as a matter of urgency.”

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