By Bill Heaney

New legislation on domestic abuse – Dunbartonshire has the worst record in Scotland for this appalling crime – is likely to contain a register for abusers similar to the sexual offenders register if it is given the green light by the Scottish government.
West of Scotland Tory MSP Pam Gosal is promoting the legislation for this at Holyrood and she flagged up the fact on Thursday that the consultation for it closes on Monday.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told her: “I am aware of the consultation on a proposed domestic abuse bill and I confirm that, when the consultation has concluded, we will consider any proposals that would further our commitment to do more to support victims of domestic abuse.
“Of course, it will be important to look at how proposals would interlink with implementation of our equally safe strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls. Certainly, we are open minded to any reasonable proposals that come forward.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Pam Gosal and Pauline McNeill.

Ms Gosal told MSPs: “It would help to protect victims of that appalling crime. I will give an example: I have spoken to one woman who told me that she suffered numerous acts of violence and awful physical abuse for years.
“Her abuser has allegedly attacked five other women, and she believes that my proposed bill could have prevented some of those women from going through a horrific ordeal.”

The First Minister promised: “Of course, we will listen to and meet, when appropriate, anybody who wants to make such suggestions, and I absolutely understand that somebody who is in that situation would consider that such a proposal would make a difference.

“We will consider the proposals in the consultation when the consultation has closed, which will happen shortly, and when they have been properly analysed. We are open minded to that.

“The Police Scotland disclosure scheme for domestic abuse is in place right now. It has an important impact, but absolutely none of us should be complacent about domestic abuse or the need to do more to protect victims and potential victims of domestic abuse.

“I hope that the member will take my comments in the spirit in which they are intended, which is to signify a genuinely open mind. We have a number of initiatives in place, many of them under the ambit of the equally safe strategy, which are about protecting women and girls.

“We need to consider carefully any proposals to ensure that they fit with that, but our minds are open and we will have further discussions as appropriate.”

Labour’s Pauline McNeill raised the question of domestic abuse and its impact on women in Scotland’s jails.

She said: “Almost 80 per cent of women prisoners in Scotland have a history of significant head injury, mostly through domestic abuse.

“University of Glasgow research has shown that 66 per cent of female inmates have suffered repeat head injuries for many years, and 89 per cent of participants said that domestic violence was the most common cause.

“It is concerning that many of those women might return to their abusers on release from prison. What further action can the Scottish Government take on the specific issue of female prisoners who have a history of being a victim of domestic abuse, while they are in prison and, importantly, when they are released from prison?”

Nicola Sturgeon told her: “I am happy to give further consideration to that point and to look carefully at the research that underpins Pauline McNeill’s question. I think that it is the case—and that it is well understood—that many women who are in prison will be the victims of abuse and will be vulnerable in many respects.

“There are similar vulnerabilities for many men who are in prison as well, but we are, rightly, focusing on the issue of women right now.”

She added: “The number of women in prison has reduced over recent years, and we want to see that trend continue so that those who offend are treated appropriately.

“The points about the support for women who have suffered domestic abuse while they are in prison and also upon their release are important, so I undertake to give the points that Pauline McNeill has raised today proper consideration and come back to her once we have had the opportunity to do so.”

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