The Creation of a Specific Offence of Domestic Abuse - Proposed Associated Reforms to Criminal Procedure

Details of proposed reforms to criminal procedure in relation to domestic abuse.

Foreword by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice

Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice

We know that far too many people are suffering in abusive relationships.

Recent statistics shown that nearly 60,000 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded by Police Scotland in 2014/15. And we know this is an under-estimate of the true extent of domestic abuse with many cases never being reported to the police.

That is why we are going to legislate in this Parliamentary year to create a new domestic abuse offence. This offence, which was consulted upon between December 2015 and April 2016, will criminalise the complex coercive and controlling behaviour that for many victims is their experience of domestic abuse.

We are currently considering carefully the feedback offered including how best to ensure the offence acknowledges the impact of domestic abuse on children and this document does not discuss potential changes to the terms of the offence. Separate engagement will be undertaken as changes to the offence are considered.

In offering views on the draft offence as part of our recent consultation, we have noted many stakeholders suggested that the way in which the justice system handles domestic abuse cases needs to be modernised. Stakeholders have indicated that the protections offered to complainers in domestic abuse cases is lacking with reforms necessary to ensure our justice system operates in a modern and responsive way when dealing with domestic abuse cases.

It is of course critical that the proper administration of justice is carried out in all criminal cases and we consider the four areas included within this paper will modernise how the justice system deals with domestic abuse cases appropriately and effectively.

If you would like to offer views, please do so through the contact details at the end of this document.

While legislation can only provide some of the answers in tackling domestic abuse, I firmly believe that the reforms summarised in this paper coupled with the creation of the domestic abuse offence will help put Scotland firmly at forefront of efforts across the world to address the scourge of domestic abuse.

Michael Matheson MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice
Scottish Government
October 2016


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