Changes in criminal procedure related to the proposd new statutory offence of domestic abuse have been supported by the Faculty of Advocates.
In its response to a Scottish Government consultation, Faculty agrees with the approach of modifying a number of rules in a similar way to cases where sexual offences are alleged.
Ministers have identified four areas for special treatment: a new standard bail condition prohibiting an accused from obtaining precognitions or statements from a complainer except through a solicitor; a ban on accused persons conducting their own defence; the introduction of expert evidence about the behaviour of the complainer; and, on conviction, mandatory consideration of a criminal non-harassment order.
Regarding accused conducting their own defence, the response comments: "The Faculty agrees that the risk of the trial process in domestic abuse cases being misused by the accused to further intimidate and control the complainer would be similar to the risk in sexual cases."
On non-harassment orders, Faculty observes that a sentencing judge would not be required to impose an order (NHO), rather it must be considered as part of the sentencing process.
“The Faculty also notes that it is proposed that the court should provide reasons for its decision to make or refuse to make an NHO. The Faculty believes that the proposed reforms will add transparency to the sentencing of persons convicted of domestic abuse offences”, it concludes.