You can choose whether or not to report what has happened to the police. For some people, reporting their attacker and seeking justice is very important. Other people do not want to tell anyone at all, far less report to the police. It may help to talk about any concerns before making a decision. If you need any help with making an informed decision you can talk it over with us and can do this anonymously.
If you already know that you want to report to the police, do this as soon as possible after the incident. This is because the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that some evidence may get damaged or lost. If you’re not sure, you may choose to go to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre, where they will have the facilities to collect and store evidence if you decide you want to report later. If you decide to have a medical examination, there is still no obligation to report to the police if you decide you do not want to.
What is the Forensic Medical Services Act and what does it mean for survivors?
The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021 is a change in the law which came into effect on 1st April 2022, that changes the way that survivors can access Forensic Medical Exams (FMEs) after a rape or sexual assault.
An FME is an examination performed by a specially trained healthcare professional to collect forensic evidence after a rape or sexual assault. You can usually access an FME for up to 7 days after the assault(s). After this window, it is unlikely (but not impossible) that evidence could be gathered.
What’s changing for survivors?
As of 1st April 2022, anyone aged 16 and over that has been raped or sexually assaulted can self-refer for FMEs, meaning that you don’t need to make any immediate decisions about whether to report to the police.
The window for collecting forensic evidence is short, but we know that making the decision about whether or not to report a rape or sexual assault can be really difficult. Self-referral means that you can make a decision about reporting when you feel ready, whilst also capturing any potential evidence.
How to self-refer for an FME
The ‘Dunnock Suite’ is the named Forensic Medical Suite housed in a building near the entrance to the grounds of Wishaw General Hospital.
You can access an FME through the NHS at your local Sexual Assault Response Coordination Service (SARCS). You can refer yourself to SARCS by calling their dedicated number, which is available 24/7 and free from landlines and mobiles. This number and more information can be found on their website.
A specially trained nurse will be with you throughout your appointment, and you can bring someone with you for support. As well as your FME, this service will also seek to meet any other immediate healthcare and wellbeing needs, such as providing emergency contraception, and referring you to support services like Rape Crisis.
What happens next?
Any forensic evidence collected will be stored securely by the SARCS for 26 months from the day of your FME. This evidence will not be reviewed or analysed unless you decide to report to the police. SARCS is a confidential NHS service, meaning that the police and other agencies will not know unless you decide to tell them. In certain circumstances, a healthcare professional might have to tell them if you or others are at risk of further harm, but they should speak with you about this and keep you informed.
If you decide not to report before the end of the 26 months, you can choose to have your evidence destroyed or for certain evidence (such as personal items or clothing) to be returned to you. After the 26 months, your evidence will have been safely destroyed, but you will still have the option of reporting to the police.
Detailed information can be found here:
If the assault happened some time ago, you can still report it to the police. Some people do not report until years later. There may still be evidence to help the police continue with an investigation.
More useful information is here: Report a sexual crime or rape? – Police Scotland
The Police will investigate your report thoroughly and, where there is evidence available to support your complaint, will report the case to the Procurator Fiscal (PF). If insufficient evidence is gathered to charge the person responsible, this does not mean the Police do not believe you.
The case will be referred to the PF’s ‘Victim Information and Advice (VIA) Service’, who will keep you up to date with the progress of the case and you can also contact them for information about your case or the criminal justice process.
Once the case has been fully investigated, specialist sexual offences prosecutors will decide whether there are to be criminal proceedings. If they decide to take no further action in your case, it does not mean that you have not been believed. It may be that there is not enough evidence for the case to proceed to court. We can help you with all of these stages of the justice process, to explain any procedures, advocate on your behalf and attend court with you.
Once a decision has been made to prosecute the case, the case will be prepared for trial. If the trial is going ahead, you will receive notification that you must appear as a witness to give evidence for the prosecution. If the accused pleads guilty you will not have to go to court to give evidence. VIA will keep you informed about all proceedings.
If the accused is remanded in custody, the trial has to call in court within 140 days. If the accused is on bail, the trial has to call within a year. It is possible for these periods to be extended and for trials to be adjourned to another date, but you should be kept informed about any changes.
There are 3 possible verdicts in Scotland – guilty, not guilty or not proven. To find someone guilty of a criminal offence, the jury has to be satisfied that the case has been proved beyond reasonable doubt. A verdict of ‘not guilty’ or ‘not proven’ does not mean that you have not been believed. It may mean that looking at all the evidence in the case, the jury was not satisfied that the case was proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Click here to find out more about support through the criminal justice system.
More information and support
Rape Crisis is here for you, no matter what.
Rape Crisis advocacy workers can talk you through your options and what to expect if you’re thinking of reporting.
If you’re looking for support, our Contact Line is available Mon – Thurs 9am – 4pm, and Friday 9am – 3pm.
LRCC Contact Line: 01698 527 003
Email: [email protected]