Boorish behaviour can lead to being locked out of your house and jailed

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Scotland’s Justice MInister Hamza Yousaf backs zero tolerance here.

By Bill Heaney

When does a row between a co-habiting couple escalate in the eyes of the law to become domestic abuse, which is a crime.

Many people are asking if boorish behaviour, raised voices, spilt red wine on the sofa, moaning about recklessness with money and plates crashing against your next door neighbour’s wall are sufficient to constitute the latter.

It gives a whole new meaning to “your dinner’s in the dog”.

If anyone should know then it should be Police Scotland in West Dunbartonshire, which holds the shameful record of being the worst partner abusers in Scotland.

The days have long past here when the Police called out to a row between couples radioed back to the station that “it was just a domestic”.

It’s now a very serious matter indeed.

The zero tolerance domestic abuse policy introduced by West Dunbartonshire Council has made a difference to the lives of 130 victims in its first year.

No Home for Domestic Abuse introduced a range of support for victims including immediate access to practical help and legal assistance following any instance of violence in a Council home.

Using Anti-Social Behaviour powers and housing legislation, the Council campaign also supports victims to remain in their home, while the perpetrator is removed and stopped from returning.

In total, 130 people have been supported by the initiative, including eight men, in the 12 months since it was launched.

Abusive partners who have ambitions to change their address might come home one night to find the locks on their house changed.

The Council revealed this week that a number of victims were assisted with changed locks, while others requested to be moved and were successfully relocated within West Dunbartonshire.

A significant number contacted the team for advice only, and were provided with information about their options.

Due to personal circumstances, some victims took the decision not to proceed with any action, but received advice and assistance about their rights in the future.

The new policy saw the Council remove six perpetrators from homes following intervention.

The scheme also provided support to help one perpetrator make positive changes, after he recognised his behaviour following the launch of No Home for Domestic Abuse.

West Dunbartonshire Council is the first authority in Scotland to introduce such robust measures to combat domestic abuse – but more than half of authorities in Scotland have requested information with a view to introducing it in their area.

Councillor Diane Docherty, Convener of Housing and Communities, said: “The way in which this has helped some of our most at-risk residents is such an achievement and something we can all be proud of.

“These changes in our policy have supported people to escape from dangerous and often life-threatening situations.

“We have also had more than half of all Scottish local authorities consider adopting the scheme, so we are kick-starting progress on a national scale.”

McAllister, Leven Ward SNP
Violence against women’s champion Cllr Caroline McAllister

Councillor Caroline McAllister, Vice Convener of Housing and Communities, styles herself as West Dunbartonshire Council’s Violence Against Women Champion.

She said: “This scheme was launched in reaction to the high instances of domestic violence in West Dunbartonshire. The number of people helped in just one year of the No Home for Domestic Abuse campaign shows how far reaching the policy is.

“We are still working as hard as ever towards ending domestic violence in our area, including with our domestic abuse summits due to be held later this year. Educating people on what constitutes domestic abuse is key and this is part of our focus for these events, as well as showing people who to turn to if they suspect somebody they know if being abused.

“West Dunbartonshire Council will continue to work with or partner authorities to combat this scourge on our area.”

The initiative was launched in partnership with Police Scotland, Women’s Aid and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).

Domestic abuse was on the agenda at the Holyrood parliament on Thursday.

SNP member Fulton MacGregor asked the Scottish Government what action it is taking to reduce domestic abuse.

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, said: “It is a Scottish Government priority to tackle both the causes and the impacts of domestic abuse.

“The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, came into force in April and reflects the full spectrum of abuse that victims might suffer.

“Criminal proceedings using the new legislation are on-going in courts across Scotland. As Shona Robison [the former Health Minister] rightly said, one person has already been convicted and sentenced for the new offence.

“We have supported the delivery of training to more than 14,000 officers and front-line staff in Police Scotland to support them to recognise the dynamics of trauma and abuse. We are also investing significant levels of funding in front-line services to support survivors of domestic abuse.”

Named the Caledonian programme, the initiative is costing £2.8 million already seems to be making a huge difference in the areas in which it has been rolled out and is said to be gaining the confidence of “sentencers” up and down the country.

Humza Yousaf said: “Community disposals are available; however, they are always at a sheriff’s discretion. The community alternatives and disposals that could be available include the likes of the Caledonian project, which works with the perpetrators of domestic abuse on rehabilitation to change their behaviour.

“That is why we have invested £2.8 million to expand the Caledonian system domestic abuse programme, from which 19 local authorities now benefit.

“We support local government with £100 million for criminal justice social work.  Plans are currently underway to roll it out to the remaining local authorities.”

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