Leader: Measures needed to protect harassment victims

More needs to be done to help victims of domestic abuse. Picture: Getty
More needs to be done to help victims of domestic abuse. Picture: Getty
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The ten-fold increase in the number of non-harassment orders secured from Scottish courts in the past five years speaks volumes for the extent of the problem. Regrettably, the figures suggest victims were previously suffering in silence, and it is only now they have enough confidence to report the matter, in the belief they will be taken seriously.

The response to new figures on harassment from Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, makes plain the dilemma abuse victims used to face. “If you get a non-harassment order and it’s not worth the paper it’s written on,” said Dr Scott, “then that probably just increases your danger.”

Domestic abuse remains a scourge of society, and with police figures showing 60,000 calls to report cases were fielded last year, against 1,000 non-harassment orders secured, it appears that recent progress remains modest.

Scottish Women’s Aid has called for the introduction of emergency barring legislation, so that perpetrators of domestic abuse can be removed from a house or home if that’s what women request. In certain circumstances such an outcome would be in everyone’s immediate interests, but the implementation of such a power would be fraught with difficulty. Asking the police, or relevant authority, to make an on-the-spot judgment on a situation without evidence or corroboration risks making a wrong call that further inflames a difficult situation.

But waiting until the criminal courts convict a perpetrator before a removal order can be obtained will often take an agonising amount of time, during which victims live in constant fear of being abused. Consideration should therefore be given to finding an effective means of protecting a victim of domestic abuse as soon as an accused party is charged, and one option which should be examined is temporarily removing the accused from the household until legal proceedings run their course.

No-one should have to live in fear in what should be the security of their own home.