Leader comment: Scotland gets world-leading law on domestic abuse

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson talks with Brenna Jessie and Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women's Aid, which will get �165,000 of extra funding to train staff to promote understanding of the new offence (Picture: PA)
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson talks with Brenna Jessie and Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women's Aid, which will get �165,000 of extra funding to train staff to promote understanding of the new offence (Picture: PA)
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The Scottish Parliament’s decision to pass the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill makes Scotland a world-leader.

Scotland has been among the first countries in the world to adopt landmark reforms such as the smoking ban, community land ownership and minimum alcohol pricing.

Now, following the passing of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill with the support of MSPs across the political spectrum, we have adopted what has been described as the “gold standard” law against an age-old evil.

It is important to stress what the new law actually criminalises, which is a “course of behaviour [that] would be likely to cause the complainer to suffer physical or psychological harm”. Most people know what this means and could recognise it. If actions are “reasonable”, no offence is committed.

READ MORE: 58,810 incidents of domestic abuse in Scotland last year

Critics may look to undermine public acceptance of the law by picking out an example of abusive behaviour, like “deliberately failing to pass on messages from friends and family”, and suggesting, wrongly, that a single case would be enough to prompt a prosecution.

Instead, the bill is designed to deal with a much more serious offence, one can ruin lives and has done for centuries. Its arrival is not before time.

READ MORE: Police officers raise concerns over new domestic abuse law