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Domestic Abuse Bill aims to tackle psychological abuse

20 March 2017

The Scottish Government Bill to strengthen the law relating to domestic abuse, in particular by targeting psychological abuse, was published today.

Under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, it will be an offence for a person to "engage in a course of behaviour" which is abusive of the person's partner or ex-partner.

To meet that test the course of behaviour must be such that a reasonable person would consider it likely to ncause the other person to suffer physical or psychological harm, and the person committing it either intends that outcome or is reckless as to whether it causes such harm.

The definition of psychological abuse was one of the key areas of debate during a pre-legislation consultation, with some including the Faculty of Advocates arguing for a test of the likely effect on a reasonable person. However the bill focuses on the likely effect on the individual concerned. 

It further explains that in addition to behaviour that is violent, threatening or intimidating, anything that a reasonable person would consider likely to make the victim more dependent on the perpetrator, or isolate them from friends, relatives or other support, is controlling or monitoring of their activities, restricts their freedom of action, or frightens, humiliates, degrades or punishes them, is also caught. It does not depend on the victim actually suffering those consequences.

There is an aggravation where the offence is directed at, or committed in the presence of a child. There is also a defence that the behaviour was reasonable in the circumstances.

If convicted on indictment an offender could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison; 12 months is the maximum on summary complaint. 

Meeting survivors of abuse in Glasgow today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am proud that, as a society, we’ve come a long way from believing that domestic abuse is only a physical act. 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."

Click here to access the bill and related papers.


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June Smith

Thursday March 23, 2017, 20:07

At last there is acknowledgement of this type of abuse. Does infidelity come under this Bill?