Nurses in Western Australia will soon be able to collect valuable samples from sex assault victims, closing a gap in services which currently exists in rural and regional Western Australia.
Police Minister Rob Johnson said he would introduce amendments to the Criminal Investigation Act 2006 to expand the ability of registered nurses to take forensic samples from victims.
Under current legislation, only doctors are authorised to conduct the majority of forensic procedures in cases of sexual assault, which includes the ability to search the intimate areas of a victim’s body and remove, or take a sample of, any evidence.
Mr Johnson said by allowing nurses to carry out these procedures, it would significantly assist victims of sexual assault in regional areas, who were often disadvantaged if a doctor was unavailable.
“The problem was first brought to the attention of the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee from its investigation of serious sexual assaults in 2006,” he said.
“During the inquiry, women from regional and remote areas expressed the need for local nurses to be able to take intimate forensic samples from sex assault victims as doctors have not always been available to carry out this procedure.
“This deficit in services has led to significant shortfalls in the quality of forensic evidence which is needed for the successful prosecution of offenders in court.
“Having trained nurses available to carry out the internal forensic procedures will, in many instances, eliminate the potential loss of forensic evidence.
“In addition, it will enhance victim care and comfort, avoiding the need for victims having to travel excessive distances in order to undergo a forensic examination to collect vital evidence.”
A training package will be developed to train nurses to conduct these internal forensic procedures.
The Minister said it was his intention to introduce the legislation into State Parliament in the next few weeks.
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