Scotland’s police and courts could get powers to remove suspected domestic abusers from victims’ homes under new Scottish Government proposals.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf announced that the Domestic Abuse Bill will be considered by parliament “within weeks” and, if passed, would allow police to ban suspected abusers from entering a property for a short period.
Officers could then apply to the courts for a longer-term protective order preventing the return of the suspected abuser for up to two months.
The Justice Secretary argued the plans would give victims “vital breathing space, free from an abuser’s coercion and control, to decide the best future option for them”, in addition to specialist support if required.
The proposed legislation, announced in last week’s Programme for Government, also aims to make it easier for social landlords to transfer tenancy of a property from the perpetrator to the victim of domestic abuse if they have been married or lived together.
Mr Yousaf also revealed plans to fund new research by Glasgow Caledonian University into victims of coercive control and stalking, and their experiences of the justice system.
The study will look at issues including victim empowerment through the court process and examine the role of the perpetrator and how their involvement may further control the victim.
Mr Yousaf said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the vulnerabilities of some people in our communities – not least those who endure domestic abuse, whether physical, psychological or coercive, controlling behaviour.
“The Scottish Government is taking firm action to tackle this wicked blight – which scars the lives of too many families and diminishes our communities.
“From our Equally Safe Strategy and record funding to tackle violence against women and girls, to the groundbreaking legislation which in 2019 made psychological abuse a crime – we are doing all we can to consign domestic abuse and gender-based violence and discrimination to history.
“This Domestic Abuse Bill is important because it lifts the burden of action from those already suffering or at risk from abuse by giving greater powers to police to intervene where necessary.”
Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “Domestic abuse is the leading cause of women’s homelessness in Scotland, with women experiencing domestic abuse often having to choose between staying in the home with a perpetrator or making themselves and their children homeless to get away from the abuse.
“We have long said that protective orders would make an immediate and significant difference for those women and children, offering them respite and breathing space as they seek support and safety.
“Survivors have asked for years, why should those being abused, rather than the perpetrator, have to leave their homes, pets, and belongings?
“We don’t think that they should and we very much welcome this legislation, which will be a step in the right direction towards changing that.”