Annex E – Legislative and policy changes
Domestic Abuse Scotland Act
E.1 The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 introduced a crime relating to a person engaging in a course of behaviour relating to domestic abuse. There is also a provision for a new statutory aggravation relating to children, which is aggravated if the offence directs behaviour at a child, or uses a child to direct behaviour at the partner/ex-partner. It came into force on 1st April 2019.
E.2 In the past, these crimes will often have been convicted under individual charges in other crimes or offences categories, including Breach of the peace etc. (which covers stalking, and threatening and abusive behaviour) and Common assault in the Miscellaneous offences category. Therefore it may affect the numbers of proceedings and convictions for these crimes, and the numbers of proceedings and convictions with a statutory domestic abuse aggravation or domestic abuse identifier. COPFS' Domestic Abuse and Stalking Charges 2019-20 Statistics on the number of charges reported to them showed that the percentage of charges for stalking with a domestic abuse identifier fell from 72% in 2018-19 to 65% in 2019-20.
E.3 The introduction of this act is also likely to have an effect on the numbers of proceedings and convictions in the violent crime category, as the new crime under this act was added to this category. It was put in this category after consulation with users.
Other changes to legislation during the period covered by this bulletin
E.4 The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 introduced a new statutory aggravation for domestic abuse which came into force in April 2017. This act also covers 'intimate images' offences (often known as 'revenge porn').
E.5 Sections 79-81 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 ("the 2016 Act") made significant changes to the sheriff and jury procedures contained in the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 ("the 1995 Act"), and were introduced over three dates during the period May to August 2017. This may feed through to average sentence lengths because it allows sentence discounts for early guilty pleas.
E.6 The 2016 Act - Part I (Police powers) came into force on 25 January 2018. The provisions, amongst other matters, transferred written undertaking provisions from the 1995 Act to Part I of the 2016 Act.
E.7 On December 5th 2014 the alcohol limit for drivers in Scotland was reduced from 80 mg to 50 mg per 100 ml blood.
E.8 The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, which came into effect on 1 March 2012, was repealed on 20 April 2018. See Annex E7 in the 2018-19 bulletin for a table of all the proccedings and convictions under this act by year.
E.9 Aside from the changes mentioned above, there have been no other major legislative changes throughout 2019-20 which impact on the comparability of the statistics. However, it should be noted that legislation introduced in years prior to 2019-20 will continue to have an impact on the statistics as people are charged under the new legislation and proceeded against in court.