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Modernising the law on domestic and sexual abuse

Published: 28 Jan 2016 09:30
Part of:
Law and order

Tackling the rise of revenge porn.

A Bill to improve access to justice for survivors of domestic abuse and tackle the rise of so-called revenge porn will be debated at the Scottish Parliament today.

The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Bill, introduced by the Scottish Government, will modernise criminal law and strengthen powers for the police, prosecutors and courts to take action against perpetrators of domestic abuse, harassment and sexual offences.

It also creates an offence of sharing of private intimate images without consent, often called revenge porn, reflecting the way modern technology can be used to perpetrate abuse.

Under these new Scottish Government proposals, judges will also be required to give juries specific directions when dealing with sexual offence cases. These directions are designed to improve juries' understandings of sexual violence, which we know is a current barrier in access to justice for victims.

A new statutory domestic abuse aggravator will also be introduced to ensure courts take domestic abuse into account when sentencing an offender.

If passed by Parliament, the Bill will also ensure child sexual offences committed in England and Wales by Scottish residents can be prosecuted in Scotland and reform the system of civil orders to improve protections for communities from sex offenders and to help prevent sexual harm.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, said:

"The bold proposals Parliament is debating today will improve the way the justice system responds to abusive behaviour, holding perpetrators to account for their actions and improving public safety. As well as sending a strong message that domestic abuse and harassment are appalling crimes which will not be tolerated, this Bill will also remove some of the current barriers to justice by improving understanding of domestic abuse and sexual harm, something we know is lacking in the current system.

"We are also continuing to modernise law in Scotland and to make sure our legislation best fits the needs of a 21st Century Scotland which is why we are creating a new offence of sharing intimate images without consent, so-called revenge porn, reflecting changing technology.

"At a time when victims of sexual offences have increasing confidence in reporting historic incidents to the police knowing they will be effectively investigated, our proposals on new jury directions will also make a real difference in ensuring juries approach court evidence in an informed and balanced way.

"We know that legislation alone is not enough to tackle the scourge of domestic abuse, harassment and sexual violence. This is part of a wide range of measures we are putting in place, including an additional £20 million to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls. Put simply, this Government's collective measures show that domestic abuse will not be tolerated in Scottish society."