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 works with men convicted of domestic abuse offences to help them:

  • recognise their abuse
  • take responsibility for themselves and their relationship with their ex/partners and children
  • reduce their reoffending

The system also offers services to convicted men's victims.

We have provided approximately £2.3 million of funding for the Caledonian System for 2016 and 2017.

The approach includes:

  • the Men's Service, which lasts at least two years and includes preparation and motivation sessions, a programme of 25 group work sessions and post-group work
  • the Women's Service, which provides safety planning, information, advice 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 is currently undergoing a process of reaccreditation through the Scottish Advisory Panel on Offender Rehabilitation (SAPOR), with the intention to also accredit the Women's & Children's Services within the wider Caledonian System. SAPOR is an independent panel that accredits offender interventions and programmes, and provides us (and the Scottish Prison Service) with advice on rehabilitation processes.

SAPOR recognised that it would be desirable to accredit all elements of the Caledonian System at the same time so that all future reaccreditation cycles will run concurrently. Work is being undertaken at the moment to update all materials that support the Caledonian System.

In December 2017 the Caledonian Men's Programme was reaccredited through the Scottish Advisory Panel on Offender Rehabilitation (SAPOR), with conditions.

The Women's and Children's Services which make up the other elements of the Caledonian System were accredited at the same time. Accreditation commenced on the 7 December 2017 and will expire on 6 December 2022.

The Caledonian System is managed by Criminal Justice Services departments of local authorities and has been rolled out to 13 council areas:

  • Aberdeen City
  • Aberdeenshire
  • Edinburgh
  • East Lothian
  • Midlothian
  • Borders
  • Falkirk
  • Stirling
  • Clackmannanshire
  • North Ayrshire
  • South Ayrshire
  • East Ayrshire
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Information for people experiencing domestic abuse is available on the site.