Proposals to make it easier to obtain a Non Harassment Order and to make breaching an interdict a criminal offence were given broad support by MSPs at today’s Stage 1 debate of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill.
Scottish Women’s Aid welcomes the cross party support for the proposals but has expressed deep disappointment that Section 2 of the Bill – which would have removed the Legal Aid means test for applications for domestic abuse interdicts – is unlikely to go forward.
Lily Greenan, Manager of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “For many women, getting an interdict is the only way they can protect themselves from ongoing harassment and abuse by an ex-partner. No one should have to pay for protection from abuse and we are deeply disappointed that concerns about the potential costs of removing the means test are over-riding consideration of how to ensure the safety of women – and their children – at risk of ongoing abuse by an ex-partner.”
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- Scottish Women's Aid is the lead organisation in Scotland working towards the prevention of domestic abuse. We play a vital role campaigning and lobbying for effective responses to domestic abuse.
- The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill on 27 May 2010 by Rhoda Grant MSP
- The Justice Committee is the lead committee for Stage 1 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill. The Committee published its Stage 1 report on 12th January 2011. The Committee supported Section 1 and Section 3 of the Bill, did not support Section 2 and noted that further work was needed on Section 4.
- Section 1 of the Bill would remove the ‘course of conduct’ requirement before a civil non-harassment order (NHO) can be granted. At present, an application for an NHO can only be considered if there have been 2 or more incidents.
- Section 2 of the Bill would amend the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act by removing the means test for all applications for interdict with power of arrest under the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981 or the Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Act 2001, and for applications made under new section 8A of the 1997 Act (inserted by section 1 of the Bill) in cases involving domestic abuse.
- Section 3 of the Bill would make it a criminal offence to breach an interdict with a power of arrest in domestic abuse cases; this new offence would be punishable on summary conviction by imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding the statutory minimum, or both.
- Section 4 provides a statutory definition of ‘domestic abuse’. This section is still the subject of discussion between Rhoda Grant and the Minister.