New domestic abuse Bill hailed as milestone for victims by Scottish Women’s Aid

Proposed new laws which seek to exclude perpetrators of domestic abuse from their victims’ homes have been hailed as a “milestone”.

Scottish Women’s Aid welcomed the changes outlined in the Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill, which has now been published.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the new legislation builds on laws which came into force last year, outlawing controlling and coercive behaviour.

It comes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic having “highlighted the importance of protecting women and girls who find themselves isolated and vulnerable due to the actions of an abusive partner”, he added.

The new Bill, if passed, will give senior constables the power to issue a domestic abuse protection notice against someone if they have “reasonable grounds” for believing abuse has occurred.

The police would then have to apply to the courts for such a notice, which would require the person who is believed to have committed the abuse to leave the home of their victim – even if it is also their home – barring them from entering the property.

Abusers would also be prevented from approaching or contacting their victim and any children under the terms of the notices.

Breaching such a notice could result in a jail sentence, according to the proposed legislation.

The new Bill, if passed, would also allow councils and housing associations to end or transfer the tenancy of abusers, in order to allow victims to remain in their own home.

Welcoming the new proposals, Marsha Scott (pictured), chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “The publication of this Bill is a milestone moment for women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse who for years have asked us why it should be them, rather than their abusers, who have to leave their homes, pets and belongings to seek safety.”

She added: “Domestic abuse is the leading cause of women’s homelessness in Scotland, with women often facing the impossible choice between living with an abuser and making themselves and their children homeless.

“We have long said that emergency protective orders will make an immediate and significant difference for those women and children, offering them respite and breathing space as they seek support and safety.

“The role of social landlords is also key in this, and so new powers to allow them to help survivors of domestic abuse to remain in the family home are welcome news.”

Mr Yousaf said: “This new Bill will apply to all those at risk of domestic abuse, but we know women are disproportionally affected, representing 80% of victims.

“A person’s home should be a place of safety and the new orders being introduced will give victims of domestic abuse space and time to address their longer term safety and housing situation.”

The Justice Secretary continued: “The Bill builds on our legislation that came into force last year giving police and prosecutors greater powers to target those who engage in coercive or controlling behaviour.

“The Scottish Government is determined to protect everyone from domestic abuse and, at the same time, we will continue to implement our Equally Safe strategy with a focus on supporting women and children at risk of abuse.”

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