Coronavirus Acts: second report to Scottish Parliament (August 2020)

Second two-monthly report to Scottish Parliament on the use of the powers contained within the Coronavirus Act 2020, Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 and Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 covering the reporting period up to 31 July 2020.

This document is part of a collection

5. Further reporting

Coronavirus related SSIs

5.1. Section 14 of the second Scottish Act requires Scottish Ministers to report on SSIs made by Scottish Ministers where the main purpose relates to coronavirus. This provision does not apply to SSIs made by Scottish Ministers under the first or second Scottish Acts or the UK Act. Information on SSIs, to which section 14 of the second Scottish Act applies, is included at section eight of this report.

Information about domestic abuse

5.2. Section 15A of the first Scottish Act and section 13 of the second Scottish Act require Scottish Ministers to take account of any information about the nature and number of incidents of domestic abuse occurring during the reporting period to which the review relates, given to them, or published by the Scottish Police Authority, or the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland. Further, Scottish Ministers are required to explain in the report on that review, prepared under section 15 of the first Scottish Act and section 12 of the second Scottish Act, how the information was taken account of. The legislation does not require this information to be taken into account in the review of the powers under the UK Act, however we have made a decision to do so in order to ensure consistency in our approach and ensure the fullest possible consideration is given to this information.

5.3. We are committed to tackling all forms of gender based violence, including domestic abuse. During the coronavirus outbreak, we have maintained our priority that victims of domestic abuse and gender based violence get the support they need during these challenging times and are kept safe from harm.

5.4. In terms of our requirements under the legislation, consideration has been given to the provisions in the Scottish Acts and the UK Act where information about domestic abuse may be deemed relevant. The information from Police Scotland to support the review was published on 23 July 2020, as part of the Scottish Government Justice Analytical Services data report on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the justice system.[14]

5.5. We are of the view that, where information on the nature and number of incidents of domestic abuse may be of relevance to a provision, this information has not impacted on the outcome of the assessment of whether the provisions remain necessary. However, the information has, in some circumstances, supported the continued need for the provision. For example:

  • The provisions in section 3, schedule 2 and Part 1 of the second Scottish Act on the expiry of undertakings under section 25(2)(a) of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 were identified as a key measure to preserve public and victim safety during the coronavirus outbreak, particularly in sensitive cases of domestic abuse. During the coronavirus outbreak a person may not be able to attend court in accordance with their undertaking due to public health guidance or infection. The provision provides the court with the power to prevent the expiry of an undertaking and any conditions attached to it. Without this provision, there is a risk that protective conditions attached to undertakings will expire in an increasing number of cases, raising safety concerns, particularly in domestic abuse cases. The information from Police Scotland on incidents of domestic abuse supports the continued importance of the provisions in order to preserve victim safety.
  • The provisions on the temporary registration of social workers under section 7 and schedule 6 of the UK Act aim to ensure that there are enough social workers to deal with all aspects of social work, which would include domestic abuse. To support Local Authorities, guidance was published by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) on 19 May 2020[15], which signposts to local resources, and assists decision-makers in identifying women and children at risk as well as the short, medium and long term steps they can take to support their recovery and wellbeing. An increase in demand for all social work services is anticipated as we ease out of lockdown and the information from Police Scotland on incidents of domestic abuse supports the continued necessity of the temporary social work register during the emergency period.

5.6. All official advice and rules issued by the Scottish Government in relation to the ‘lockdown restrictions’ have maintained clear exemptions to enable anyone requiring to leave the home to escape or keep themselves safe from domestic abuse. To support this, guidance on domestic abuse accompanying the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 was published in May 2020 and subsequently revised in July 2020, following the move to phase three of the route map for moving through and out of the coronavirus crisis. The information which is referred to at section 5.4 above was considered in the review period. Due to the continued threat to public health which is posed by the virus, these provisions were considered to be necessary and proportionate. We will continue to consider the available information as required under the legislation, in future review periods.

5.7. Further to the requirement under the legislation, the specific circumstances of domestic abuse have required separate consideration on the operation and implementation of some of the provisions and this is included at section seven of this report.

5.8. In addition to the reporting requirements under the legislation, information about incidences of domestic abuse continues to be collected, monitored and regularly exchanged with statutory partners to inform our response to domestic abuse and ensure that decisions taken are effective and appropriate during the pandemic. Further to this, consideration is being given to the potential for data from other organisations to inform the evidence base on domestic abuse for the purposes of future reporting on the legislation.

Additional reporting requirements

5.9. Schedule 1, paragraph 24(3) of the second Scottish Act requires the Scottish Ministers to prepare a report on the steps taken during the reporting period to ensure that marriages and civil partnerships can take place during the emergency period, and the number of marriages solemnised and civil partnerships registered during the reporting period. This will be reported on separately and is not included within this report.

5.10. Schedule 4, paragraph 12 of the second Scottish Act requires the Scottish Ministers to lay a report before Parliament on their responses to requests for information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2020. This will be reported on separately and is not included within this report.



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