Heather’s Law would give children and young people the right to be able to refuse to see a parent convicted of domestic abuse and would be the final step in the creation of Scotland’s world-leading laws against domestic abuse, writes Kezia Dugdale.
Last year, the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of introducing the new Domestic Abuse Act, which saw new legislation come into force yesterday, and now makes psychological domestic abuse and controlling behaviour a criminal offence.
The new law was welcomed by domestic violence and women’s organisations across Scotland, and it is a huge step forward in tackling domestic abuse, which is not always physical.
Domestic abuse will now be recognised as including abusive psychological or emotional treatment as well as coercive and controlling behaviour, where abusers isolate their victim from their friends and relatives or control their finances.
Whilst this new law was progressing through the Parliament, I met with local Boroughmuir High School pupil, Heather Nicol, who was campaigning for the rights of children and young people to be able to refuse to see one of their parents if they had been convicted of a domestic abuse offence.
This would further reduce an abuser’s ability to retain control over a family, putting power back in the hands of those affected.
The Heather’s Law campaign, as it has come to be known, has gone from strength to strength, firstly through a well-supported online petition, then local press and national radio interviews culminating in meetings with Scottish Government justice ministers who have promised to look at legislating in this area.
Whilst this new and world-leading domestic abuse legislation is of course welcome – and it sends a clear message to abusers that all forms of domestic abuse are criminal – there is still one final step to take to extend the rights of young people, whose own lives can be deeply affected by domestic abuse, to be allowed to have their say.