DOMESTIC ABUSE: Second to our drug crisis in Scotland, that is our national shame

By Bill Heaney

Figures that were released this week tell a horrendous story of domestic abuse in Scotland, Tory MSP told the Scottish Parliament this week.

Jamie Greene said: “The number of domestic abuse cases has risen for the fourth year in a row, with 63,000 incidents having been reported last year.

“Second to our drug crisis in Scotland, that is our national shame.”

He told the First Minister: “Education and prevention are, of course, important, but so is punishment. How many perpetrators who, historically, would have received a custodial sentence did not receive one under the Government’s presumption against short sentences?

“If the answer is more than one person, we have to ask ourselves what message that sends to the tens of thousands of victims of abuse—who are mostly women—about whose side justice is on.”

Nicola Sturgeon replied: “I think that everyone will agree that one case of domestic abuse is one too many. We should have, and the Scottish Government does take, a zero-tolerance approach.

“It is important that we all understand a point of context. The figures for 2019-20, which were reported last month, show that half the rise in the number of convictions was accounted for by the new offences under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018.

“The numbers are going up because we have legislated to make more domestic abuse behaviours criminal offences.

“No one should ever celebrate a rise in the number of domestic abuse cases, but what underlies the statistics is a sign that, as a country and as a Parliament, we have taken the issue even more seriously.”

Marsha Scott, from Scottish Women’s Aid, has said: “Although it is very early data, our new domestic abuse law shows signs of living up to its global ‘gold standard’ label.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “On punishments, as Jamie Greene knows, we have had debates in other contexts over the past few months about whether the provisions on separation of powers between Parliament and the judiciary and criminal justice system are as robust as they should be. I think that they are.

“Every member should know that I do not decide what punishment a person gets when they are convicted of an offence, although we set the statutory framework for that.

“As Jamie Greene said, there is a presumption against short sentences. The decision on whether a perpetrator goes to jail is not for me or for any member of the Government; it is a decision for the judge who presides over the case. That is how it should always be.”

West Dunbartonshire has some of the worst figures for domstic abuse in the country and the local council have set up a special group to deal with it.

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