DOMESTIC ABUSE: DRAFTING OF NEW LEGISLATION IS ‘REAL CAUSE FOR CONCERN’

Domestic abuse is ‘completely unacceptable’ – Rhoda Grant MSP, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Chief Constable Ian Livingstone.

By Bill Heaney

It is completely unacceptable that, for some people, home is not the place of safety that it is for most of us, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament this week.
She was addressing MSPs in answer to a question from Labour MSP Rhoda Grant about domestic abuse.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I know that we all agree that it is completely unacceptable that, for some people, home is not the place of safety that it is for most of us. Throughout the pandemic we have urged anyone who is at risk of domestic abuse to reach out to get the support that they need.
“It is important to stress that lockdown restrictions do not prevent a person from leaving their home if they are escaping domestic abuse.
“Support services have remained open throughout the pandemic. Police Scotland also continues to treat domestic abuse as a priority and will respond to all calls about it.
The Government has provided organisations including Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland with additional funding to allow them to increase the capacity of their services to meet demand.
“In addition, we have worked with the United Kingdom Government on a code word scheme for participating pharmacies in order to increase access to routes to help in the community.
“We will continue, of course, to take all appropriate steps to ensure that those who need support get it.”
Ms Grant said: “The First Minister must have been as distressed as I was to read in The Sunday Post about how badly Louise Aitchison was let down by the police both before and after her murder.
Police Scotland ready to tackle crimes of domestic abuse – Chief Constable Livingstone.
“The First Minister will also be aware that the Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill that is going through the Parliament at the moment is so poorly drafted that it is a real cause for concern.
“While taking evidence on the bill, the Justice Committee has been told that Police Scotland is not using all the powers that are now available to it to protect victims of domestic abuse.
What is the First Minister’s Government doing to ensure that all existing protections are being used?
“Can she guarantee that ministers will work constructively with the Justice Committee to ensure that the current legislation works, because it is a national disgrace if any person who reaches out for help is being abandoned—and murdered—as a result?”
The First Minister replied: “The tragic situation that Rhoda Grant has referred to is, of course, deeply distressing.
“I think that all of us would agree that it is deeply distressing when any victim of domestic abuse does not, for whatever reason, get the support that they need in time to avoid tragic outcomes such as that.
“All of us recognise that we need continually to seek to do more to ensure that everybody gets the help that they need and that, first and foremost, people feel that they can reach out for the help that they need and, of course, then get that help. That is why some of the actions that I have spoken about already today are so important.
“The Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill, which as Rhoda Grant rightly said is going through the Parliament, will provide the police and courts with further powers to protect people who are at risk.
“I will very willingly pass Rhoda Grant’s comments about Police Scotland to [Iain Livingstone] he chief constable of Police Scotland, who might want to respond directly to her.
“However, I know from my conversations with the chief constable how seriously he and Police Scotland, as an organisation, take their responsibility to help victims and potential victims of domestic abuse.
“I think that on every occasion when the chief constable has joined me in briefings on Covid, he has taken the opportunity to stress to victims of domestic abuse that the police are there for them 24/7 and that they should always call.
“While any woman might lose her life or be a victim in any way of domestic abuse—this goes for anybody, for that matter, although it is principally woman who are victims—we have more to do. I think that everybody across the Parliament takes that very seriously indeed, as I do as well.”
Top: The West Dunbartonshire group which has been set up to highlight rising incidence of  domestic abuse. Picture by Bill Heaney

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