Moves to tackle domestic abuse and ‘revenge porn’

The First Minister made the announcement at the Scottish Women's Aid conference in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The First Minister made the announcement at the Scottish Women's Aid conference in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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A SPECIFIC criminal offence of domestic abuse and another to tackle revenge porn are to be looked at as part of a consultation announced by the Scottish Government.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told delegates at a conference in Edinburgh yesterday that her government would “take a lead” on ending violence against women.

Prosecutors have urged the use of “bespoke legislation” to tackle domestic abuse and revenge porn, with Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland calling for jail sentences of up to five years for those who maliciously share intimate images or videos of former partners on the internet.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government’s consultation would look at five key areas, including the introduction of specific offences for domestic abuse and revenge porn, and jury directions in sexual offences cases.

She said: “Violence against women is both a symptom and a cause of wider gender inequality across our society. And so ending violence against women has to be part of a broader strategy – we also need to achieve true gender equality in society as a whole.

“We are launching a far-reaching consultation on whether the current law on domestic abuse and sexual offences should be clarified and strengthened.

“Domestic abuse in law can be challenging. Therefore, we need to ensure that our legislation commands wide support, anticipates possible pitfalls and allows us to prosecute the people who perpetrate these crimes.”

Ms Sturgeon said that if a consensus could be reached, there would be a move to legislate in the current parliament.

She added: “Either way, we will make clear that ongoing coercive and controlling behaviour is unacceptable, and that those who commit such crimes will face justice. We know that changing the law isn’t enough on its own – but it can play an important part in the wider social and cultural changes we want to bring about.”

Last year, the Lord Advocate called for specific legislation to tackle the growing problem of individuals who post explicit images of people – usually former partners – on the internet without their consent.

At the moment, such behaviour is prosecuted under existing legislation, using charges such as breach of the peace.

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson has also called for domestic abuse legislation that would tackle a prolonged pattern of behaviour rather than relying on specific offences, such as assault or breach of the peace.

Addressing the Scottish Women’s Aid conference yesterday, its chief executive Lily Greenan said: “It is 20 years since the Beijing ‘platform for action’ laid out the work that should be undertaken globally to protect women’s human rights.

“The platform for action identified violence against women as one of the critical areas of concern. We are delighted that the UN special rapporteur on violence against women is able to join us in reviewing the progress we have made in Scotland since 1995 to tackle violence against women.

“Equal participation of women and men in decisionmaking was also one of the goals of the Beijing declaration. It’s a particular pleasure therefore to welcome First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to the conference.”

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