'Groundbreaking' new domestic abuse law comes into force

Image source, Laura Dodsworth
Image caption,
The new law will criminalise psychological abuse

A new law has come into force that makes psychological domestic abuse and controlling behaviour a crime.

It will be supported by a Scottish government awareness campaign aimed at improving public understanding of the wide-ranging nature of the problem.

The Scottish Parliament passed the Domestic Abuse Act in February last year.

Police Scotland said officers have been given extra training in preparation for the change in law.

The legislation covers not just physical abuse, but psychological and emotional treatment and coercive and controlling behaviour, where abusers isolate their victim from their friends and relatives or control their finances.

It takes account of the full breadth of violent, threatening, intimidating and other controlling behaviour which can destroy a victim's autonomy and further recognises the adverse impact domestic abuse can have on children.

What constitutes abusive behaviour?

The new legislation says abusive behaviour is:

Behaviour that is violent, threatening or intimidating

Behaviour whose purpose is one of the following:

  • making a partner dependent or subordinate
  • isolating a partner from friends, relatives or other sources of support
  • controlling, regulating or monitoring a partner's day-to-day activities
  • depriving a partner of, or restricting, freedom of action
  • frightening, humiliating, degrading or punishing a partner.

The offence is aggravated if any of the behaviour is directed at a child or witnessed by them.

The Act also requires courts to consider imposing a non-harassment order on an offender convicted of a domestic abuse offence to protect their victim from further abuse.

For police it means they can now include evidence of coercive and controlling behaviour where it forms a pattern alongside physical and sexual abuse.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "The Domestic Abuse Act makes absolutely clear that coercive and controlling behaviour is domestic abuse and a crime.

"I am proud Scotland is leading the way with this groundbreaking legislation, which uniquely recognises the effect of domestic abuse on child victims as well as adults."

Image caption,
MSPs applauded domestic abuse survivors in the public gallery after the legislation was passed

One survivor has urged anyone living with domestic abuse to seek help.

Roshni, 29, left an abusive marriage with support from Hemat Gryffe Women's Aid in Glasgow.

She said: "At first the marriage was so good, but after a few months I realised there was something wrong. He didn't give me any money, so I always had to stay at home, I felt so isolated.

"He was always pushing me and abusing me in front of my family and friends.

"This was a really bad situation for me, I wanted to live with respect as a person.

"If you feel like you are in my situation being controlled or abused by your partner, seek help, it's your life."

'Groundbreaking' offence

Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald, crime and protection lead for Police Scotland, said: "This new offence is groundbreaking.

For the first time, it will allow us to investigate and report the full circumstances of an abusive relationship.

"In preparation for the change in law our officers and staff have received further training on the dynamics of power and control in abusive relationships to help recognise the signs, identify investigative opportunities and to tackle the myths and misconceptions of abuse that still exist.

"This new offence is a clear warning to abusers that all forms of domestic abuse are criminal and that perpetrators should expect to face the full consequences of their abusive behaviour."

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