This report presents an analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on a criminal offence of domestic abuse.
Between March and June 2015, the Scottish Government consulted on whether a specific offence of domestic abuse would improve the ability of police and prosecutors to tackle domestic abuse. Analysis of the consultation responses indicated strong agreement that the current law does not reflect the experience of victims and that a specific offence would improve the ability of the justice system to respond to this crime. There was, however, a range of views on how a new offence could be developed.
In the Programme for Government in September 2015, the First Minister announced that the Scottish Government would publish a draft of a specific offence to deal with those who commit psychological abuse and engage in coercive and controlling behaviour.
This second consultation sought the views of stakeholders on the draft offence that was published with the Consultation Paper. The consultation sought views both on the general principles underlying the approach taken in drafting the offence, and on a number of specific issues including the maximum penalty and the defences available to the offence.
There were 8 consultation questions. The first question was a yes/no question with opportunity to comment. The remaining seven questions asked for comment.
A copy of the consultation document can be found at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/12/6973
Overview of responses
The consultation was published on 22 December 2015 and ran until 1 April 2016.
In total 59 consultation responses were received. A profile of respondents by type is set out in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Respondents by type
|Type of respondent|
|Advocacy and support groups||7|
|Children's and young people's groups||5|
|Law enforcement, legal and academic respondents||9|
|Local Authority, health and Multi-Agency Partnership ( MAP) respondents||20|
Points to note about the respondent groups are:
- The advocacy and support group category includes organisations that campaign on issues connected with violence against women and/or domestic abuse, a group that provides services to women affected by abuse, an organisation that works to reduce offending, an organisation that supports victims of crime and an organisation that campaigns on behalf of the LGBTI community.
- The children's and young people's groups category includes two children's charities, an organisation for young LGBTI people in Scotland, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People and the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration.
- The law enforcement, legal and academic category contains both group and individual respondents. The four university-based respondents included two individual respondents, both of whom are staff within Law Schools of UK universities. One of these responses was made on behalf of a group of Criminal Law students. A collaborative group of several Scottish universities submitted a response. There was also a group response from an academic and eight young survivors of domestic abuse who work together to promote the use of evidence from young survivors of gender-based violence. The other group respondents in this category are the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland, the Sheriffs' Association and Police Scotland.
- The local authority, health and Multi-Agency Partnership ( MAP) category includes nine MAPs, three local authority respondents, three health respondents, two community safety partnerships, a public protection committee, a child protection committee and a criminal justice authority.
- The 'other' individual respondents category includes a number of people (primarily but not exclusively women) with direct and very personal experience of domestic abuse.
A list of the organisations that submitted a response to the consultation is included as Annex 1 to this report. The list also includes the two individual respondents placed in the law enforcement, legal and academic category. Otherwise the names of individual respondents have not been included.
Structure of the report
The remainder of this report presents a question-by-question analysis of the comments made. A small number of respondents did not make their submission on the consultation questionnaire, but submitted their comments in a statement-style format. When these responses contained a clear answer at the 'Yes/No' element of Question 1, this has been recorded. The remaining content was analysed qualitatively under the most directly relevant consultation question.
Other points to note about the analysis of further comments made are:
- As with the analysis of responses to the Equally Safe consultation, the analysis mirrors the language and terminology used by the respondents whose comments are being reported. In particular, some respondents referred specifically to domestic violence as being violence against women and girls and/or children by men.
- In particular, it sometimes uses the language of both the draft offence and of some respondents in referring to an alleged perpetrator of an offence as 'A' and an alleged victim of an offence as 'B'.
- A small number of respondents made detailed and/or very specific suggestions as to how the current draft offence should be revised. Specific re-drafting suggestions made have been included within Annex 2 to this report.
- The report seeks to avoid repetition by covering any particular issue primarily under one question. For example, a number of respondents raised the extent to which the draft offence covers children in introductory or further comments. This issue was also raised at Questions 1 and 2 but most frequently at Question 3. The main analysis of all these comments is presented under Question 3, although all comments have been taken into account.
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