Posted on Jul 20, 2011 in Family Law by Amanda Wilson
The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2011 comes into force today.
This new piece of legislation has been introduced in an attempt to improve access to justice and the protection available for all those who are subject to domestic abuse.
The Act introduces two main changes to the remedies which are currently available (under existing legislation) to people in that situation:
- The Act removes the requirement for a person, who is the victim of harassment, to show that there has been a “course of conduct” before a Non Harassment Order will be granted. Now, under the Act, evidence of only one such incident of harassment will be needed for such an order to be granted.
- The Act now makes it a criminal offence for a person to breach a Domestic Abuse Interdict or Interim Interdict which has a Power of Arrest attached to it.
An interdict or interim interdict will be deemed to be a “Domestic Abuse Interdict” where the interdict has been granted for the protection of the applicant against a person who is, or was:
- a) The applicant’s spouse,
- b) The applicant’s civil partner,
- c) Living with the applicant as if they were husband and wife or civil partners, or
- d) In an intimate personal relationship with the applicant
These new changes are significant. Previously, to obtain a Non Harassment Order, a “course of conduct” had to be demonstrated, which often meant that victims of harassment were unable to apply for such an order. However now, only one incident of harassing behaviour is needed, which should provide greater protection to those who are subject to harassment.
In relation to existing Interdicts where a Power of Arrest was attached, in the past, it was generally felt that there was confusion between the Police, the Procurator Fiscal and the Courts as to the circumstances when a person in breach of such an order should be arrested and thereafter, the procedure to be taken. This was due, in part to different pieces of legislation which made separate provision for such interdicts.
It is hoped therefore, that by making such a breach a criminal offence now, such orders will carry the weight needed to deter perpetrators of domestic abuse from breaching these orders. For those who do breach such orders, appropriate criminal sanctions, including a custodial sentence, a fine or both, can be imposed.
Amanda Wilson is a specialist Family Law Solicitor. If you have any questions about domestic abuse please contact Amanda on the details below.