Leader comment: Scots must learn from life ruined by domestic violence

The number of cases of domestic abuse in Scotland is 'truly shocking', Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has said.
The number of cases of domestic abuse in Scotland is 'truly shocking', Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has said.
0
Have your say

If any Scots are still in doubt about the need to toughen Scotland’s laws on domestic violence, they should consider the case of Linda Ormond.

If any Scots are still in doubt about the need to toughen Scotland’s laws on domestic violence, they should consider the case of Linda Ormond.

Married at 19 to a man she had the misfortune to love, she endured 25 years of horrific attacks, including a brutal beating on their wedding day. One Christmas Day, he broke her ribs; another attack took place as she lay in bed, pregnant with their child. The next day she suffered a miscarriage.

She was regularly hospitalised but, “embarrassed” and “ashamed”, she sought to hide the truth and keep the vow she made in church. A life ruined by an unrepentant abuser. So what was the punishment for such abhorrent crimes, this “catalogue of prolonged abuse” in the words of the Fiscal depute? A three-year prison sentence, with automatic early release likely to reduce that to 18 months – less than a month for every year of his wife’s torment.

READ MORE: ‘Unacceptable’ rise in domestic abuse incidents in Scotland

While the individual circumstances of each case must always be taken into account – the sheriff may have been influenced by the defendant’s age, 67 – sentencing also needs to send a message to society at large.

And it seems self-evident the current penalties offer little deterrent.

In the year to March 2017, there were 59,000 cases of domestic abuse recorded by Police Scotland, up by one per cent on the previous year. These included attempted murders, rapes and serious assaults with women the victims in nearly 80 per cent of cases.

READ MORE: Dani Garavelli: Violent men who destroy faith in justice

The extent of the problem was described as “truly shocking” by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson in September, as the Holyrood Parliament unanimously backed the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, which will strengthen the law and criminalise psychological abuse.

MSPs are taking action and they are backed overwhelmingly by the public with a survey for the Scottish Government finding more than 90 per cent of Scots do not believe the current laws are fit for purpose.

The days when people thought domestic abuse was a private matter are long, long gone. Police, prosecutors and judges all need to ensure they play their part in eradicating the idea held by some men that they have a right to use violence against the person they profess to love. We all have just one life to live and if, like Linda Ormond, it is ruined by a despicable, cowardly bully as described in court yesterday, this is a heinous crime worthy of a significantly longer sentence than three years.