New Law to Aid Victims of Domestic Abuse

by Karen Rafferty

A new law, which will see the closure of a legal loophole in domestic violence cases, has been introduced today by the Scottish Government. This will give more protection to victims of violence. The new offence will be classed as ‘engaging in threatening or abusive behaviour’.

Following a court ruling last year, there were fears that a legal loophole may have been created, leaving domestic abuse victims more vulnerable, and also creating more difficulties for prosecutions, particularly where the offences have taken place in private.

Previously, the charges of ‘breach of the peace’ were used in relation to offences within the home. Last year, however a ruling at an appeal court, saw this change. The ruling claimed that breach of the peace required a ‘public element’, which created the loophole for offences that took place away from the public eye.

The Criminal Justice and Licensing Act, which was passed recently, has helped ensure that the loophole created has subsequently been closed. The act no longer has to take place in public to be considered a statutory offence.

Justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill

In a statement, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:

“The effects of domestic abuse can be devastating and we are doing everything we can to tackle it.

“We’ve done a lot of work to raise awareness that this behaviour is totally unacceptable, that help is available, and to encourage more people to come forward, safe in the knowledge that they will be supported.

“We want to send out the message loud and clear that if you carry out this offence, there will be no escape, there will be no wriggle room to exploit, and you will be met with by the full force of the law.”

Scottish Women’s Aid Manager, Lily Greenan has embraced the new legislation:

“This is a really positive thing that they’ve closed the loophole as it was very concerning” she said “it is now clearer for police, clearer for prosecutors, and clearer for women, and for people who engage in threatening behaviour.”

Government plans to reduce domestic abuse

By Sally Edgar.

Police may be given the power to warn women against potentially violent partners as the Government reveals a plan to tackle domestic abuse.

Men that have had previous offenses could be placed on a register, identifying them as a potential risk to women. This would be monitored by police who could have the authority to warn these offender’s girlfriend’s of their history. If neccessary, police could also be given powers to ban offenders from the family home for a fortnight.

These plans have been listed in a consultation document due to published by the Home Office. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith hopes that if the ideas are passed they could help to protect women and reduce their exposure to domestic violence.

“At the moment we have orders that quite often individual women take out on their partners, or ex-partners, if they have been abusive to them.
“Perhaps we ought to turn that round and say that the order ought to attach to the perpetrator, to the usually man, who has actually had a series of offences; that might be one way of doing it.

“Or perhaps there may be times when it is appropriate for people to actually be given information by the police that somebody that they have started a relationship with is somebody who has a history of violence.

“We’ve already made real progress with domestic violence incidents more than halving in the past 12 years. But I want to start a national debate on what more we can do to prevent it and challenging attitudes which condone it.”

domestic-abuse-hear494

Even with recent progress there are still a high number of cases of physical or emotional abuse in the home.
And it’s not just women that are suffering from this form of abuse. Jacqui Smith has announced that “Violence against women and girls is unacceptable in any form.” The fact that the report focuses on women victims may leave abused men feeling somewhat unsupported and discriminated against sexually.

In 2007, 142 people died in domestic attacks, including 38 men. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are thought to suffer some kind of abuse behind closed doors every year. Many of these people are too afraid to confront their partners and continue their lives in silence.

Scotland is also hoping to make this issue a high priority. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has reinforced the importance of fighting for this cause.
“Sadly, violence is part of too many women’s lives across the world. I want today to call on my fellow political leaders in Scotland – let’s put family back at the top of the agenda, let’s have the debate about how we put family back at the heart of society and how we support the family,” she said.

Campaign To End Violence Against Women

2006_1Debbie Smith

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It marks the start of 16 days of action against gender violence around the world.

It is 48 years since the Mirabal sisters were brutally assassinated in the Dominican Republic on 25th November 1960, raising global recognition of gender violence. The campaign ends on 10th of December, International Human Rights Day, highlighting a symbolic link between Violence against women and human rights.

Unifem say: “Violence against women is the most pervasive violation of human rights, occurring every day, in every country and every region, regardless of income or level of development. On 25 November people around the world are coming together to condemn this universal crime against women.”

It is estimated that one in three women will at some time in their life be beaten, raped or abused in some other way. These women are most likely to be attacked by men they are acquainted with. In a Home Office report 45% of rapes reported to the survey used to compile the report, were committed by the victim’s current partner.

Reclaim the Night March took place on Saturday 22nd November, calling for an end to male violence against women and an end to male impunity against rape. Around 2000 women took to the streets of London for the 5th anniversary march organised by the London Feminist Network to demand justice for rape survivors.

Violence against women is not limited to domestic assaults in the UK. Women continue to face violence at the hands of state agents all over the world.

Amnesty International say: “All governments have the responsibility under human rights law to condemn violence against women and not invoke customs, traditions or practises in the name of religion or culture to avoid their obligation to eliminate violence against women.”

Extreme violence against women is pervasive in the Democratic Republic of Congo where it is reported women are being gang raped and subjected to horrific sexual crimes and acts of brutality. This amount to war crime in a country currently engaged in fierce conflict.

New laws to prevent forced marriage and protect those who have already fallen victim have been brought into statute in England, Wales and Northern Ireland today. The new laws mean that anyone found guilty of forcing someone into marriage could be jailed for up to two years.

Louise Johnson, Legal issues advisor at Women’s Aid Scotland said: “This legislation does not apply to Scotland and the relevant protective mechanisms cannot simply be “cut and pasted” into Scots law because of significant differences between Scots and English Law.” However The Scottish Government is in the process of drafting a consultation document on forced marriage, looking at whether civil legislation should be introduced north of the border.

Forced marriage is considered by many to be “an issue of the invisible suffering of women”. According to the UN about 1 million people are forced into marriage around the world each year. In a Lothian and Borders Police publication they state: “Forced marriage is primarily an act of violence against women.”

The new legislation south of the border has been welcomed by many of the organisations involved in the 16 days of action against gender violence around the world.

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