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.”