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Evidence call as committee takes on Domestic Abuse Bill

29 March 2017

Views on the proposed new offence of domestic abuse have been invited today by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee as it begins its scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill.

Under the bill, which aims to strengthen existing laws against people who abuse their partners, 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.

Targeting psychological as well as physical abuse, intimidating, isolating or humiliating a partner or ex-partner, or controlling their freedom, would become illegal. However, the committee will also explore concerns already expressed by some about how the new offence might be proved in court, and whether the behaviour should actually be illegal.

In particular, the committee is looking to hear:

  • whether there is a consensus with the idea of introducing this category of offence, which would criminalise non-violent but abusive behaviour, and its workability in practice;
  • what factors might influence the reporting, investigating and prosecuting of the proposed offence;
  • whether the bill sufficiently takes into account the impact of domestic abuse on children;
  • views on the Government’s definitions of “abusive behaviour”, “partner”, “ex-partner”;
  • views on the associated reforms to criminal evidence, procedure and sentencing.

Committee convener Margaret Mitchell MSP commented: “These proposals recognise that domestic abuse is not limited to physical abuse. Psychological abuse can be just as pernicious as hitting and kicking.

“However, it is clear the bill will require detailed scrutiny. The committee is seeking views on this law’s necessity, and will look to ensure the bill does not end up being well-intentioned but unworkable legislation.

“In addition to women’s groups, the committee want to hear from law enforcement bodies, legal bodies, academics and other stakeholders who want to ensure the laws work for anyone suffering from domestic abuse.”

Click here to view the call for evidence. Submissions are due by 1 May 2017.

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