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Harassment and Domestic Abuse

Everybody has the right to live their lives free of domestic abuse and harassment.  Domestic abuse is where one person causes harm or distress to their partner or ex-partner, or to somebody they were previously involved in some degree of relationship with. It can take many forms including physical violence, mental and verbal abuse or sexual abuse.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1 February 2018. It criminalises psychological domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour. The Act also requires courts to consider imposing a Non Harassment Order on an offender convicted of a domestic abuse offence to protect their victim from further abuse. It allows the Police to investigate and report the full circumstances of an abusive relationship. They are now able to include evidence of coercive and controlling behaviours where it forms a pattern of abuse, often carried out alongside other insidious behaviours, including physical and sexual assault. 

Harassment is repeated behaviour by another that makes you or your family distressed or scared, such as abusive phone calls or coming to your home without your permission.

Both men and women can be the victims of domestic abuse and harassment, and any such abuse should always be reported to the police. In Scotland, there are also various options available to you through the legal system that may give you some protection, including applying for a court order such as an InterdictExclusion Order and Non-Harassment Order

Frequently asked questions

The following are some of our most frequently asked questions when it comes to harassment and domestic abuse.

You can apply to your local Sheriff Court for an Exclusion Order. This is essentially an order granted by the Sheriff Court which prevents a married person or civil partner from coming back to the family home. The court will only grant this order if it is satisfied that it is necessary for your safety, for example if you have been a victim of domestic violence. The Sheriff will also have to consider the safety of any children living in the home.

People who are married or in a civil partnership do not have automatic rights to change the locks to the doors of the family home if the house has been shared during the relationship. You cannot exclude your partner (or ex-partner) from their own home without a court order authorising you to do so.

If you are not married or in a civil partnership and are simply cohabiting with your partner, you may be able to change the locks to the property depending on the legal status of the home.  Every situation is unique and you should seek legal advice from a Solicitor before taking any action. 

If you feel that you are at risk of immediate harm, you should contact the police immediately.

If you are being harassed by your ex-partner, you can apply to the Sheriff Court for a Non-Harassment Order.  This is an order which would prevent that person from carrying out specified action or actions, and if they do they would be committing a criminal offence.

You may feel embarrassed or ashamed if a photograph of you – whether compromising or otherwise - ends up on the internet, but it is important to remain calm and have the matter dealt with.  You should contact the administrators of the social media website, report the inappropriate photograph to them and ask them to remove it from their website immediately. Untag yourself from the photograph to minimise the number of your friends who might see it before it is deleted.

If your ex-partner does this to you, they are guilty of a criminal offence. Distributing a private sexual image of another person without their consent with the intention of causing them distress is a crime which could carry a jail term in the most severe cases. You should keep evidence of them having posted the image, such as keeping screenshots of their post, and report the matter to the police immediately.

If your ex-partner is phoning or texting you against your wishes, you should politely ask them to stop contacting you this way. If they persist in doing so, you may be able to contact your network operator to have their phone number blocked. Also, certain smartphones will allow you to block a specific phone number from contacting you.

If this does not work, you could consider applying for an Interdict or a Non-Harassment Order if you feel that the communications from your ex-partner amount to harassment. If the messages are of an abusive or obscene nature, this would be a criminal offence and should be reported to the police.

If you are being harassed by your ex-partner when you are at work, or if your ex-partner is coming to your workplace against your wishes, there are several legal options that may be available to you, in particular an Interdict or a Non-Harassment Order. Your Solicitor can advise you on the best route for your circumstances.

If you are being harassed by a colleague during the course of your employment, you could contact our Employment Law team experts, who can advise you of your options in this field.

Stalking is an extremely invasive and harmful offence, and the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 provided for a new statutory criminal offence of stalking.

Stalking can take many forms, including following you or contacting you against your will. There is no clear-cut definition of stalking; however, there are a variety of other criminal offences which might cover behaviour of this nature, such as breach of the peace, threatening or abusive behaviour or even sexual offences. The legislation sets out the types of behaviour that are considered to be stalking but also includes a broad ‘catch-all’ category banning any behaviour that any reasonable person would expect to cause a victim fear or alarm. Such a course of conduct must occur on at least two occasions. The National Stalking Helpline can give you further information and support on this issue.

If you feel that you are the victim of stalking, you should contact the police immediately. The legal system can also afford you a degree of protection and you may be able to apply to the Sheriff Court to obtain an Interdict or Non-Harassment order banning the individual from approaching you, contacting you, or behaving in a way that causes you to suffer fear or alarm.

No. Generally speaking, if you have to leave the family home because of domestic abuse, you keep your rights to occupy the family home if:

  • You are married to the person or in a civil partnership with them, or
  • You are not married to the person but the property is jointly owned with them or the lease is in both of your names

The position might be slightly different if the home is owned solely by your partner or if the lease is in their name only. Every situation is unique and you should seek legal advice about your rights and your options.

How can Thorntons help?

If you are the victim of domestic abuse or harassment, talk to a Solicitor about your legal options. Everyone’s situation is unique and we can advise you on the best course of action for your circumstances and guide you through the process. We are also on hand for a fast response if you are worried that you or your children are at risk.

At Thorntons Family Law, we offer an initial free no-obligation chat over the phone to outline your options and the possible costs.

Depending on your case and circumstances, the next step is to come into one of our local offices to meet a Family Law Solicitor about your case and the way forward.

Call us on 03330 430 150 for a chat or contact us to book an appointment.

How much will it cost?

We are always clear to clients about the potential costs of any option and offer a range of payment options. In some cases we can offer clients a fixed price package. If we cannot offer a fixed price service, we charge based on the time we spend on your case, including meetings, emails, phone calls and court representations. Depending on your case and circumstances, you may also need to cover outlays, such as court costs or payments to independent experts. We will set out our fees and likely extra costs for you at the start and keep you informed of any possible changes as your case progresses.

Please note we do not offer Legal Aid for this service.