Strengthening the law (VAWG)

We are strengthening the law and improving public safety by providing better protection to victims of violence against women and girls (VAWG), and holding those committing these crimes to account.

This includes examining ways to increase the use of technology to further protect children and vulnerable witnesses.

Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016

The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 modernises the law on domestic and sexual abuse. The following provisions came into force on 24 April 2017:

  • introduce a 'statutory domestic abuse aggravator' to ensure courts take domestic abuse into account when sentencing offenders
  • give courts power to make non-harassment orders in cases where they cannot do so at present
  • require judges to give juries specific directions when dealing with sexual offence cases to help improve access to justice for victims
  • extend Scottish courts extra-territorial jurisdiction over sexual offences committed against children to cover the other jurisdictions of the United Kingdom.

The Act also makes provision to:

  • create an offence of sharing private intimate images without consent (commonly known as 'revenge porn') with a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment
  • reform the system of civil orders to protect the public from people who pose a risk of sexual harm

It is expected these provisions will come into effect later in 2017.

A specific offence of domestic abuse

Legislation that criminalises psychological domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour came into force on 1 April 2019.

The Domestic Abuse Act is the only UK legislation with a specific statutory sentencing aggravation to reflect the harm that can be caused to children growing up in an environment where domestic abuse takes place.

The Act also requires courts to consider imposing a non-harassment order on an offender convicted of a domestic abuse offence to protect their victim from further abuse and makes a number of other reforms to criminal procedure to protect victims.

Read more: Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act

Domestic abuse courts

Most courts across the country are running specialist domestic abuse courts, or clustering cases of domestic abuse. This is improving how cases involving VAWG are dealt with.

We have also provided additional resources to ensure that domestic abuse cases are going to trial quicker; the majority of cases are now taken within 10 weeks of first calling.

Independent Domestic Abuse Advisers (IDAAs)

We have provided £469,363 (between 2011 and 2016) in funding to train Independent Domestic Abuse Advisers (IDAAs).

IDAAs provide support for high-risk domestic abuse survivors who have cases going through the legal system.

Advisers' main aim is to increase the safety of domestic abuse survivors and their children. They also offer advocacy, support, information and crisis intervention.

The Caledonian System

The Caledonian System consists of a behaviour programme for men convicted of domestic abuse offences, and support, safety planning and advocacy services for their partners and children. 

In 2019-2020 we provided approximately £2.3 to the 13 local authorities who implemented the Caledonian during the first roll out and a further £1.8 million to those six authorities included in the latest phase of the roll  out.

The system includes:

  • the men's programme, which men attend as a requirement of a Community Payback Order or post release license, lasts at least two years and includes six months of 1:1 assessment, engagement and motivation sessions, a 22 group work phase and post-group maintenance work
  • the Women's Service, which provides safety planning, information, advice, advocacy and emotional support to female partners and ex-partners. It works with other services, like social work and the police, so that they can give women and their families the support they need
  • the Children's Service, which makes sure that the needs of the children whose parents are involved with the Caledonian System are met, their rights upheld and the impact that domestic abuse has on their lives is reduced

All the services are based on risk and needs assessment, and are designed to prevent and minimise possible harm to women and children.

The Caledonian Men's Programme was positively evaluated in 2016 and reaccredited by the Scottish Advisory Panel on Offender Rehabilitation (SAPOR) for five years from December 2017. The women and children’s services were also accredited for the same period. The Caledonian System is managed by Criminal Justice Social Work Services in the local authorities and supported and trained by a national team consisting of a co-ordinator, a national trainer and a data co-ordinator. It has now been rolled out to 19 council areas covering 75% of the population of Scotland:

  • Aberdeen City
  • Aberdeenshire
  • Edinburgh
  • East Lothian
  • Midlothian
  • Borders
  • Falkirk
  • Stirling
  • Clackmannanshire
  • North Ayrshire
  • South Ayrshire
  • East Ayrshire
  • Dumfries & Galloway
  • City of Glasgow
  • City of Dundee
  • Fife
  • Perth and Kinross
  • South Lanarkshire
  • Highland
Information for people experiencing domestic abuse is available on the mygov.scot site.