‘Serious concerns’ on practicalities of Domestic Abuse Bill

Holyrood’s Justice Committee said more clarity is needed on the proposals to ensure they can be used by law enforcement.

‘Serious concerns’ on practicalities of Domestic Abuse Bill Getty Images

Changes are needed to new legislation on domestic abuse to address “serious concerns” on the practicalities of how new measures will work, a committee of MSPs has said.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee said it supports the general principles of the Domestic Abuse Bill, but more clarity is needed on the proposals to ensure they can be used by law enforcement.

The Bill creates two forms of restrictions on suspected perpetrators of domestic abuse – domestic abuse protection orders (DAPOs, which are sheriff-ordered) and domestic abuse protection notices (DAPNs, short-term police-ordered restrictions).

These can be used to bar suspected perpetrators of domestic abuse from entering their victim’s home, even if it is also their home.

The committee says the evidential threshold for DAPOs an DAPNs is not clear and there are questions on how breaches would be dealt with.

It further says there are questions on how family law rulings will fit into the new framework.

Justice Committee convener Adam Tomkins MSP said: “The aim of this Bill, to provide further protection to victims of domestic abuse, is a laudable one which all members would support.

“However, we have significant concerns about how these proposals would work in practice.

“While on balance we believe that DAPOs and DAPNs would be a useful additional tool for the police to have, it is of fundamental importance that this Bill fully respects the European Convention on Human Rights.

“And to actually help those it seeks to give better protections to, officers on the ground must be able to use the law with confidence.

“Changes to ensure both of these tests are met must be made before MSPs are asked to pass it into law.

“To achieve this, the Scottish Government must engage extensively with law enforcement and bring forward amendments to what it initially set out.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We welcome the all-party committee’s support for the Bill’s general principles and will consider carefully its recommendations, including those about ensuring the proposed new scheme of protection for those at risk of domestic abuse can be operated effectively.

“If passed, the Bill will provide powers to the police and courts to remove suspected abusers from victims’ homes and ban them from re-entering the home, and contacting or approaching the victim.

“The Bill will also provide powers for social landlords to change a tenancy to remove a perpetrator of abuse from the victim’s home, enabling them to remain in the family home.

“We will continue to work closely with Parliament and stakeholders as the Bill progresses to the next stage.”