Groundbreaking legislation that criminalises psychological domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour in Scotland came into force on 01 April.
An awareness campaign to increase the public’s understanding of the wide-ranging nature of domestic abuse and to encourage victims of abuse to seek help has also been launched.
The SNP Government’s Domestic Abuse Act is the only legislation in the UK with a specific statutory sentencing aggravation to reflect the harm that can be caused to children growing up in an environment where domestic abuse takes place.
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 and makes a number of other reforms to criminal procedure to protect victims.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP 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 legislation, which uniquely recognises the effect of domestic abuse on child victims as well as adults.
“No-one should be forced to live like that and I hope our powerful new public awareness campaign will encourage victims to recognise their own circumstances and to seek support with the confidence that the law is behind them.”
A 29-year old domestic abuse survivor described her experience as follows:
“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.”
The SNP Government worked closely with Police Scotland, third sector organisations and others to ensure the criminal justice system is ready for the law coming into force, providing £825,000 to Police Scotland for more than 14,000 police officers and support staff to receive training on the new Act. Police Scotland has also developed online training for all 22,000 of its staff.
Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald, Crime and Protection lead for Police Scotland, said:
“This new offence allows us to investigate and report the full circumstances of an abusive relationship for the first time. We will be able to include evidence of coercive and controlling behaviours where it forms a pattern of abuse, often carried out alongside other insidious behaviours, including physical and sexual abuse.
"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.”
The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1 February 2018.