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Domestic Abuse in Scotland

The Scottish Government has introduced a new bill to Parliament that will give additional powers to tackle those who psychologically abuse their partners using coercive and controlling behaviour.

Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill creates a new statutory offence of domestic abuse that recognises the damage and hurt that non-physical abuse can cause. It was produced following a consultation run by the Scottish Government between December 2015 and April 2016 over proposals to create a specific offence of 'abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner’.

“I am proud that, as a society, we’ve come a long way from believing that domestic abuse is only a physical act,” said the First Minister. “The truth is that the psychological scars left by emotional abuse can have devastating effects on victims, and this Government will work hard to make sure perpetrators face the justice they deserve.”

“This bill will help our police and prosecutors hold abusers to account, but importantly, it also shows those who have suffered abuse that we stand with them and will take the steps needed to help them,” she added.

Joint Protocol on Domestic Abuse

Shortly after the publication of the bill, Police Scotland and the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service launched a new Joint Protocol on Domestic Abuse.

This replaces the existing Joint Protocol and follows extensive consultation with campaigners against Domestic Abuse and victims groups. An underlying principle of the revised Protocol is to recognise the significant and enduring impact which domestic abuse can have on victims and children.

Under the new Joint Protocol:

  • The role of children will be more visible in the investigation and prosecution process.   
  • There will be an expanded definition of domestic abuse to reflect an increased understanding of the crime. Additional guidance is given on the reporting of counter allegations to reduce the fear by victims that they could be arrested.  A strong emphasis is placed on the need for a sufficiency of evidence before action can be taken by prosecutors.  Guidance is given on the circumstances in which an accused person may be released on an undertaking to appear at court.

New Understanding of Domestic Abuse

“This week we have seen the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill which breaks new ground in its understanding of domestic abuse and the consequences it can have on victims and children,” explained Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC. “The bill recognises that domestic abuse may involve a course of conduct rather than a single incident or isolated incidents. It also recognises that abuse can take many forms including non- violent coercive control which can undermine the victim’s dignity and humanity.”

“This progressive offence recognises that domestic abuse is about more than physical harm,” he added. “Domestic abuse can break a victim’s spirit and restrict victims’ freedom and ability to live their life as they choose. The updated Protocol put in place by police and prosecutors will ensure that we continue to maintain a consistent investigative and enforcement approach to this particular form of criminality.”

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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