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Clarity needed on proposals to create offence of domestic abuse

12 April 2016 | tagged News release

Clarity is needed on proposals for a new law of domestic abuse if it is to help those affected by either physical or psychological abuse, says the Law Society of Scotland.

In its response to a Scottish Government consultation which sought views on a draft provision to create a specific offence of 'abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner', the Law Society said a clear definition of the offence was needed.

Grazia Robertson, from the Law Society of Scotland’s criminal law committee said: “It is absolutely right that we work to improve how the justice system responds to abusive behaviour, including domestic abuse, and that it is equipped to be able to punish, and where possible, deter perpetrators or potential perpetrators.

“We don’t dispute that psychological abuse or coercive control can amount to criminal behaviour in the same way as any physically abusive behaviour. However we believe there needs to be more clarity on what any gap in existing law might be and need to examine if existing law is working effectively. It will also be essential that any offence extending beyond physical abuse or behaviour currently forbidden by the law, is clearly defined.

“There are also some practical issues with the proposed offence of abusive behaviour in relation to partners or ex-partners which we think need further consideration.  In particular we think there could be difficulties for the Crown in acquiring sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution, especially in cases where no physical harm has been caused.”

The Law Society has also stated in its response to a Scottish Government consultation that in addition to providing support for victims of abuse, there should also be support for those who have either emotionally or physically abused their partners so they can recognise the impact of their abusive behaviour, and learn how to change their behaviours to prevent reoccurrence.

Grazia Robertson added: “As a society we want to prevent as well as punish any wrongdoing and having clarity on what amounts to criminal behaviour is part of that. Support and education for those who have abused partners would have a role to play if we are to stop recurring patterns of behaviour.

“We also think that there should be further consideration given to the type of relationships covered by this offence. In England and Wales similar legislation also covers other relationships, such as between adult siblings or other relatives, including parents, adult children or those who may not be relatives but are living in shared properties.”

To read the full Law Society response please see: /for-the-public/law-reform-consultations-and-bills/consultations-2016/criminal-law/

The Scottish Government consultation on a draft provision to create a specific offence of 'abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner':

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