New protective orders to safeguard people at risk of domestic abuse

Police and the courts in Scotland are to be given new powers to remove suspected domestic abusers from the homes of victims or others at risk.

Oct 16, 2019
By Paul Jacques

The Scottish government is introducing a Bill to Parliament that will create new protective orders to keep a suspected perpetrator away from the household of someone at risk of abuse.

Unlike existing civil measures, such as non-harassment orders and exclusion orders, protective orders would not require the person at risk to make the application to the court themselves. Police would be able to impose a short-term order directly and to apply to a court to put in place a longer-term order.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the orders would allow Scotland’s justice system to safeguard people who, for example, are being controlled to such an extent that they could not initiate court action themselves, and give victims time to seek advice on longer-term housing options.

She added: “Parliament came together to pass what campaigners described as ‘gold standard’ domestic abuse laws, creating a specific new offence that includes not only physical abuse but other forms of psychological abuse and coercive, controlling behaviour. The legislation gave clarity for victims and more powers for police and prosecutors to bring perpetrators to justice.

“But with many tens of thousands of people reporting domestic abuse in Scotland each year, we can and we must go further – and that includes taking action to reduce the threat of homelessness from those who seek safety for themselves and often for their children.

“We need to change the reality that for many women and their children the only way to escape an abuser is to flee their home. It should not be the victims of abuse who lose their homes, it should be the perpetrators.”

Ms Sturgeon said that while violent crime had significantly reduced in Scotland over the past decade, instances of domestic abuse remain far too high. “Our legislative reforms, together with work to promote healthy relationships and tackle the roots of gender-based violence, can help build a safer Scotland,” she said.

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said domestic abuse was the leading cause of women’s homelessness in Scotland. “This Bill, if passed, would be an immediate and significant improvement, offering children and women a breathing space as they seek safety. Without this legislation, women experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland will continue to have to choose between staying in the home with an abuser or making themselves and their children homeless to get away from the abuse,” she added.

A Scottish government public consultation that closed at the end of March showed widespread support for the introduction of protective orders, with many respondents highlighting domestic abuse as a leading cause of homelessness for women.

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