In an historic move, the Scottish Parliament has passed the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill.
As well as physical abuse, the Bill will cover other forms of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour in the home that cannot easily be prosecuted under existing criminal laws, making successful prosecution more likely.
It will be possible to prosecute abuse in its totality as a single offence, allowing courts to consider the whole course of abuse and sentence perpetrators accordingly.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson MSP said:
“This is a momentous day as our laws will be changed so they reflect the experience all too many women have suffered.
“Attitudes towards domestic abuse have changed considerably since this Parliament was established in 1999. Back then, some were of the mindset that domestic abuse – especially where it did not involve physical violence – was a private matter. Attitudes have rightly changed, albeit further work is needed to challenge lingering outdated or dismissive attitudes.
“I am very grateful to the domestic abuse survivors who presented their evidence to the Justice Committee. Their courage helped shaped the legislation I brought to Parliament, and their actions will help the justice system prosecute those who commit one of society’s most insidious crimes.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“Across North Ayrshire, 123 incidents were recorded per 10,000 population in 2016-17. This is 123 too many, but given the nature of these crimes the real figure will be much higher, as many victims are too afraid to report incidents and are subjected to controlling partners.
“The fact that historic Bill provides an easier mechanism to successfully prosecute domestic abusers, will hopefully lead to victims feeling more able coming forward to report such cowardly and unacceptable behaviour.”
As the Domestic Abuse Bill progressed through Parliament, Mr Matheson announced dedicated funding for Police Scotland to enable them to train officers and staff to identify the new offence.
He also announced funding for Scottish Women's Aid to develop training to help communities better understand the new legislation.