MSPs to debate ‘groundbreaking’ domestic abuse law

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Plans to make emotional and psychological abuse a crime and to create a separate offence of domestic abuse will be debated by MSPs today.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the “groundbreaking” proposals from the Scottish Government would form a key part of wider work to tackle violence against women and girls.

Parliament has its first opportunity to debate what we need this ground-breaking new law to do to protect victims and hold abusers to account

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged there would be a new Domestic Abuse Bill when she unveiled her legislative plans for the coming year.

This includes plans to create a specific offence of “abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner” as well as proposals to ensure that psychological abuse, such as coercive and controlling behaviour, can be effectively prosecuted under criminal law.

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Mr Matheson said there are “more and more people” contacting organisations such as Scottish Women’s Aid with such concerns.

He stated: “We know the effects of controlling and coercive behaviour can isolate the victims, separate them from their family and sources of potential help, and can take years to overcome.”

The Scottish Government has already consulted on plans to make domestic abuse a specific crime, with Mr Matheson saying this work had also “underlined the need for careful consideration of the legislation to ensure it can capture complex and controlling behaviour”.

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The Justice Secretary said: “Parliament has its first opportunity to debate what we need this ground-breaking new law to do to protect victims and hold abusers to account.

“We know women are disproportionately affected, so this will also be a key part of our wider work to tackle violence and unacceptable attitudes against women and girls.

“Abuse can be physical abuse, but we know it can also be a more subtle pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour, and we need to do more to ensure that perpetrators know that they will face prosecution and ensure the support is there for victims.”

The Justice Secretary is to meet representatives from Edinburgh Women’s Aid prior to this afternoon’s debate in Holyrood.

Linda Rodgers from the organisation said: “We are very glad that the Scottish Government continues to seek real solutions to preventing domestic abuse and tackling it where it occurs.

“Every day our workers see the impact that domestic abuse has on women, children and young people.

“The progress of this legislation will require hard work and careful consideration, but we are committed to working with the government to take practical steps to make women and children safer.”

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