Despite growing attention on the subject and changes to the law in this area, domestic abuse remains a scourge on Scottish society.
Although domestic abusers can be punished by law, other measures have also been implemented to try and reform abusers and / or support victims.
However, these measures do not go far enough.
In 2021, there were over 65,000 domestic abuse incidents in Scotland – the highest number ever recorded, with around half of these incidents committed by individuals who have a prior history of domestic abuse.
Growing up, I was witness to many victims of domestic abuse seeking refuge in safe spaces, places where they could confide in a kind stranger. This propelled me to do everything I can, not only to reduce this insidious crime, but ensure that every victim has a safe space they can go to.
And that’s why I am developing a Members’ Bill that seeks to deliver this.
The Bill is comprised of four different components:
The first element – and arguably the most substantial – is a Domestic Abuse Offenders’ Register which could require those placed on it to report certain changes in their circumstances to the police – similar to the approached taken for the Sex Offenders’ Register. This would help keep potential victims safe from abusers and could act as a true deterrent to would-be abusers and re-offenders.
The second element is to reform the behaviour of those who have already committed an offence to prevent reoffending. Currently, domestic violence perpetrator programmes (DVPP) are used primarily for those considered suitable candidates, or moderate to high-risk individuals. Under this Bill proposal, it would be intended that rehabilitation measures be mandatory for all those convicted under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, and any offence where a domestic abuse aggregator has been recorded.
The third element seeks to impose an annual reporting and publication mechanism on the Scottish Government. The accessibility of this information could prove to be crucial in enabling the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, and organisations plan and distribute their resource in a more efficient and effective way. This valuable information would also be intended to contribute to ensuring victims in underrepresented communities are willing to come forward and report incidents of domestic abuse with as much confidence as the general population.
Last but not least, the final element of the Bill seeks to impose mandatory school education relating to domestic abuse. This is needed for a wider cultural shift on the issue of domestic abuse – it must condemn this horrific crime, but address its root causes.
Overall, I believe that this proposal for a Members’ Bill is comprehensive and will make a real difference to the prevalence of domestic abuse in Scotland, and the support provided to victims.
The consultation for my proposed Bill has now closed. I would like to thank the many individuals and organisations who took the time to have their voices heard on this issue.
I will be publishing the responses on my website in due course, where the respondent indicated they were happy for their response to be published.