THE convener of Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee has requested the extension of the stage one deadline for a bill about the forensic medical examination of the victims of sexual crimes.

The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill proposes making health boards responsible for the examinations, as well as allowing self-referrals for those over 16.

Lewis Macdonald has written to parliamentary business minister Graeme Dey to seek an extension to the stage one deadline due to the coronavirus outbreak.

An oral evidence session before the committee was cancelled after a decision by Parliament to reduce proceedings to just one day a week and earlier sessions were disrupted due to the outbreak.

Legislation at Holyrood is passed over three stages, with the first two requiring input from relevant committees.

Macdonald said the committee will not be able to afford the bill adequate scrutiny, which will “not do justice to survivors or rape and other sexual assaults”.

The letter reads: “Scrutiny is being hampered by the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, which is preventing witnesses from attending meetings. To date three panels of witnesses have been cancelled and a further session substantially reduced in number and thus content.

“One of the remaining panels of witnesses consists of representatives from the justice field, including police, prosecutors and the legal fraternity, and this cannot at the present time proceed.”

It adds: “All members of the committee are concerned they are thus unable to undertake stage one scrutiny to any meaningful extent.

“Aside from undermining the democratic parliamentary process, members are worried we are not doing justice to survivors of rape and other sexual assaults.

“It is important the Scottish Parliament is able to give such an important piece of legislation due time and attention.”