CLYDEBANK and Milngavie will benefit from a "new chapter" in Scotland's treatment of domestic abuse, Gil Paterson MSP has said.
During a debate on domestic abuse in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday September 17, Mr Paterson delivered a speech on the new legislation.
The new law includes plans to create a specific offence of "abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner'' as well as proposals to ensure that psychological abuse, such as coercive and controlling behaviour, can be effectively prosecuted under criminal law.
In the chamber, Gil Paterson said: "This Parliament—and indeed Scotland—can be proud that in nearly every session since the Parliament was reconvened, domestic abuse in its different forms has been addressed by members. More important, it is a topic that tends not to be used as a political point scorer, because of the broad consensus that domestic abuse requires not just a political but a social solution and work with key partners and agencies to ensure that everyone who experiences domestic abuse knows where to go, knows that they will be listened to and ultimately knows—I hope—that action will be taken. More of the politics can be removed from this issue when we think how likely it is that all of us in the chamber know someone who has been in this difficult and distressing situation—although the manner and form of the abuse might be somewhat different.
"It has been recognised that domestic abuse is not carried out exclusively by men; women have engaged and do engage in violence in the home. That said, the vast majority of incidents are, without a shadow of a doubt, carried out by men and, crucially, the level and severity of physical attacks on women and children are significantly greater. As a result, my main focus today is on men's behaviour.
"We must remember that abuse does not require bruises or physical marks; it can be hidden and long-standing. Furthermore, there can be other victims who might not be the direct target of the abuse. Children can become involved by witnessing the abuse, by being a secondary victim in the wider abuse, or by being used in some way as part of the mental abuse of the mother, which relates to today’s debate.
"The introduction of the new offence has positive implications for children in other ways. Section 67(2)(f) of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 makes it a ground for a child to be reported to the children's panel if 'the child has, or is likely to have, a close connection with a person who has carried out domestic abuse'.
"By widening the definition of—and recognition of—domestic abuse, we can use our already established and well-renowned children’s hearings system to protect our children.
"As for other already established systems, last year Police Scotland rolled out nationally its disclosure scheme for domestic abuse. The addition of modern abusive factors will also improve that scheme by empowering those who use their right to ask for important further information on their partner.
"I believe that, today, we are seeing the beginning of a new chapter in Scotland’s fight against domestic abuse and in our understanding of it. The introduction of this domestic abuse legislation is an attempt to acknowledge the modern issues that surround abuse and to recognise that abuse can go beyond the physical and can involve the psychological abuse of partners. Perpetrators can use a range of tactics to psychologically abuse victims, including controlling their finances, what they wear and their use of social media and threatening to harm others, including children.
"Such an offence will also have a significant impact on how society views domestic abuse by ensuring clarity about what is unacceptable under the law. It will help to change societal attitudes about what amounts to domestic abuse, which comprises not only physical violence but psychological abuse that can involve exerting total control over a partner’s every movement and action and forcing a partner and children to live in constant fear, which is criminal and unacceptable.
"I understand that it is challenging to use existing laws to prosecute those who carry out psychological abuse such as coercive and controlling behaviour, and the new offence will help the Scottish Government’s justice partners, such as Police Scotland and the Crown Office, to deal with domestic abusers more effectively. The proposed bill will bring clarity for victims and let them know that the justice system is focused on their needs.
"The Parliament has started to address wider and growing modern issues of domestic abuse. In March, the Parliament passed the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016, which creates a specific offence of sharing private intimate images without consent, which is often referred to as revenge porn. The act also introduced a new statutory domestic abuse aggravator, to ensure that the courts take domestic abuse into account when sentencing an offender, and statutory jury directions, which I very much support, for certain sexual offences.
"The new offence will add to our understanding and recognition of the modern challenges of domestic abuse. I very much welcome and support the motion."