Police and the courts will be given new powers to remove suspected domestic abusers from the homes of victims or others at risk, the First Minister has announced.
The Scottish Government will introduce a Bill to Parliament which will create new protective orders to keep a suspected perpetrator away from the household of someone at risk of abuse.
In contrast with 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:
“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.
“So we will introduce a Bill in this Parliament to give police and courts new powers to remove suspected perpetrators from the homes of those at risk.
“Such 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.
“While violent crime has significantly reduced in Scotland over the last decade, instances of domestic abuse – an appalling, often hidden crime – 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.”
Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said:
“Domestic abuse is 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.
“As survivors have asked for years, why should those being abused, rather than the perpetrator, have to leave their homes, pets, and belongings?
“We very much welcome today’s announcement and look forward to engaging with the Scottish Government on the detail of the legislation going forward.”
The Scottish Government held a public consultation seeking views on proposals to create new protective orders that could be used to keep people at risk of domestic abuse safe by banning perpetrators from their homes.
Responses to the consultation, which ended on 29 March, showed widespread support for such protective orders, with many respondents highlighting domestic abuse as a leading cause of homelessness for women.
The Scottish Government will introduce legislation in the current session of Parliament, which ends in 2021, to introduce a new scheme of protective barring orders to protect people at risk of domestic abuse. The views offered in response to the consultation will inform development of this legislation.