Intended for healthcare professionals


Raine Roberts: founder of the UK’s first sexual assault referral centre

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 16 October 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4026
  1. Joanna Lyall
  1. London, UK
  1. joannalyall50{at}
Photo credit: PA

Raine Roberts, who has died aged 88, was the police surgeon who founded the UK’s first sexual assault referral centre, at St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester, in December 1986. Jointly funded by Greater Manchester Police and the NHS, the centre was the result of years of campaigning on Roberts’s part. “Raine was a battler and always being criticised, but stalwart and absolutely determined to do the right thing,” said Albert Yates, former detective chief superintendent of Greater Manchester Police, who worked on the establishment of the centre, now one of 50 across the UK. “At the time, women were being examined in grubby police stations, often with the suspect next door. It was a terrible experience for women to have to go through.” Initially staffed with five counsellors and eight doctors, the team now includes 25 forensic physicians, working on a sessional basis.

Early life and career

Roberts was born in Lancashire, where her father, John Birchall, was a farmer, …

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