Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson has paid tribute to the courage of domestic abuse survivors after the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed a Bill that will make psychological abuse and coercive control in the home a criminal offence.
As well as physical attacks, the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill will cover forms of abuse that cannot easily be prosecuted under existing laws, such as emotional maltreatment and controlling behaviour.
It means it will be possible to prosecute abuse in all its forms as a single offence, allowing courts to consider the whole course of abuse and sentence perpetrators accordingly.
Mr Matheson said: “I am very grateful to the domestic abuse survivors who presented their evidence to the Justice Committee. Their courage and determination helped shape the legislation I brought to Parliament, and their actions will help the justice system prosecute those who commit one of the most insidious crimes in our communities.
“I am pleased Parliament has come together to pass this legislation. Attitudes towards domestic abuse have changed considerably since Holyrood was created in 1999. Back then, some were of the mindset that domestic abuse, especially where it did not involve physical violence, was a private matter. Attitudes have rightly changed, albeit further work is needed to challenge lingering outdated or dismissive viewpoints.”
Opening the debate on the Bill at the Scottish Parliament last Thursday, Justice Secretary Mr Matheson said: “This is a momentous day, as our laws will be changed in a way that reflects the experience of domestic abuse that all too many women have suffered.
“Although I am under no illusion that laws alone can address domestic abuse, they have a key role to play. Once implemented, the Bill will allow our justice system to deal more appropriately with domestic abuse.”
Mr Matheson has announced dedicated funding for Police Scotland to enable them to train officers and staff to identify the new offence. Scottish Women’s Aid was also given £165,000 to develop training to help communities better understand the new legislation.