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Scottish government publishes Domestic Abuse Bill

Victims and survivors of domestic abuse in Scotland will have greater protection following the publication of The Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill.

If approved by Parliament, the Bill will provide police and courts with powers to remove suspected abusers from victims’ homes and ban them from re‑entering. The new legislation will also allow social landlords to end or transfer a tenancy of a perpetrator of domestic abuse to prevent a victim becoming homeless and enabling them to remain in the family home.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of protecting women and girls who find themselves isolated and vulnerable due to the actions of an abusive partner.

“This new Bill will apply to all those at risk of domestic abuse, but we know women are disproportionally affected, representing 80% of victims. A person’s home should be a place of safety and the new orders being introduced will give victims of domestic abuse space and time to address their longer term safety and housing situation.

“The Bill builds on our legislation that came into force last year giving police and prosecutors greater powers to target those who engage in coercive or controlling behaviour.

“The Scottish Government is determined to protect everyone from domestic abuse and, at the same time, we will continue to implement our Equally Safe strategy with a focus on supporting women and children at risk of abuse.”

The legislation states that it aims to make provision for domestic abuse protection notices and orders for the purpose of protecting a person from abusive behaviour by the person's partner or ex-partner. It also makes provision for the termination of Scottish secure tenancies in cases involving behaviour by a tenant which is abusive of the tenant's partner or ex-partner.

Last month, Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) revealed the devastating effects that COVID-19 - and measures to address the pandemic - have had on those experiencing domestic abuse and on the specialist services working to support survivors.

Safety measures introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent pressure on the NHS resulted in decreased emergency refuge spaces, with the need for refuge far outstripping capacity. Compounding this problem, many local authorities and housing associations stopped allocating new homes during lockdown, often meaning that children and women in refuge had no place to move on to, which limited refuge spaces for new women and children.

Abuses of child visitation and contact arrangements were seen across multiple regions, and local systems did not effectively respond to abusers using the pandemic as an excuse not to return children to their mothers. Handovers for child visits have also become increasingly dangerous for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.

Responding to the publication of the Bill, Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “The publication of this Bill is a milestone moment for women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse who for years have asked us why it should be them, rather than their abusers, who have to leave their homes, pets and belongings to seek safety.

"Domestic abuse is the leading cause of women’s homelessness in Scotland, with women often facing the impossible choice between living with an abuser and making themselves and their children homeless. We have long said that Emergency Protective Orders will make an immediate and significant difference for those women and children, offering them respite and breathing space as they seek support and safety. The role of social landlords is also key in this, and so new powers to allow them to help survivors of domestic abuse to remain in the family home are welcome news.

“We look forward to continued engagement with colleagues from all parties to strengthen the legislation even further as it makes its way through Parliament."

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) (Protection) Bill.

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