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Domestic Abuse to become a Separate Crime

This week, the Scottish Government announced plans to introduce “Clare’s Law” which will allow individuals to request information from police to find out if their partner has a violent past.

However, this has coincided with consideration in England and Wales for a separate crime of domestic abuse to be developed, which has led to calls for similar legislation in Scotland. The crime would relate not to a single incident but to a course of conduct amounting to domestic abuse.

Lesley Thomson, Scotland’s solicitor-general, said there was a need for “bespoke” legislation to target patterns of behaviour over a prolonged period of time, as opposed relying on specific incidents or offences, such as assault or breach of the peace in order to catch those carrying out domestic abuse.

Head of Glasgow-based domestic abuse advocacy group Assist, Mhairi McGowan, said:

“We need something that encompasses emotional, psychological, financial, sexual and physical abuse. We need to look at all the research and what’s being done in jurisdictions before coming to a decision.”

She also said the next step would most likely be a consultation exercise. However such a consultation may have to wait until the conclusion of Lord Bonomy’s review of corroboration. This review is looking to find safeguards that could be implemented if the Scottish Government decides implement proposals to eradicate the requirement of two pieces of independent evidence to bring a case to trial.

Home Secretary Theresa May made the statements for England and Wales this week saying new crime of domestic abuse was being considered and that the legislation would cover coercive or controlling behaviour within relationships
A Crown Office spokesman said:

“We continue to work closely with criminal justice partners and other stakeholders to discuss the effective prosecution of domestic abuse.”

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