JUSTICE: Concern over misogyny, racism, abuse and discrimination within Police Scotland

Women speak out about misogyny they face while working in the police force

Dumbarton Sheriff Court, Police Scotland officers and Barlinnie Prison, the local jail.

By Bill Heaney

Courts are backlogged, prisons are overcrowded and the police force is being starved of resources, according to Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

He told FMQs in the Holyrood parliament: “This morning the Criminal Justice Committee published its review of the Government’s Domestic Abuse Act.

“The Act was passed by this Parliament in February 2018 to give greater protection to victims, particularly women and children, from coercion and abuse.

“But today – five years on – the committee concludes that progress on implementing the changes has been far too slow.

“When the Act was brought in, the then Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said that he hoped victims would be able to seek support ‘with the confidence that the law is behind them.’

“But as usual this SNP government is content to talk up change and settle for less.

“It’s not just this legislation, there is neglect across our justice system.

“We have a hate crime bill that has never been enforced, a court backlog of over 27,000 criminal cases and 816 fewer police officers since 2020.

“When the First Minister was Justice Secretary there was a damning review of the police complaints and disciplinary system.

“It reported evidence of misogyny, racism and serious discrimination issues within Police Scotland.

“In 2020, Humza Yousaf told this chamber that the Government would ‘move at pace’ in its response.

“But Newsnight has spoken to women about the misogyny they faced while working in our police force. They say many are too scared to speak out and many have been forced to leave.

“The fact is that there is chaos in our criminal justice system.

“Courts are backlogged, prisons are overcrowded and the police force is being starved of resources.

“But isn’t this the problem – we have a First Minister who talks big but consistently fails to deliver.

“This is an incompetent and dysfunctional Government which after sixteen years has left every Scottish institution weaker.

“A justice system that too often fails victims, a transport system that too often fails communities, an education system that too often fails our children and a health service that too often fails staff and patients.

“It is no wonder that every day, more and more people are losing trust and faith in this failing SNP Government.”

Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill


The Bill creates a new offence of engaging in an abusive course of conduct against a current partner or an ex-partner.

Changes are also made to the creation of a domestic abuse case. The changes will be to the criminal procedure, evidence and sentencing.

It will also make any “associated statutory aggravation”, where children are involved or affected, an offence. For example, when a child sees, hears or is present during a domestic abuse incident.

The changes made by the Bill include:

  • banning a person accused of a domestic abuse offence from contacting the complainer (other than through a solicitor)
  • banning an accused person in a domestic abuse case from conducting their own defence in court
  • allowing certain expert evidence relating to the behaviour of the complainer in domestic abuse cases
  • applying the same rules for vulnerable witnesses as apply to other serious offences, such as not having to face the accused in court
  • making sure that the victim is not subject to further abuse by the offender after passing sentence
  • telling the court to always consider making a non-harassment order against a person convicted of a domestic abuse offence

You can find out more in the Scottish Government document that explains the Bill.

Why the Bill was created

This Bill aims to improve how the justice system responds to domestic abuse. Many victims experience domestic abuse as a series of incidents.

Domestic abuse can take place over a sustained period of time.

Abuse can be:

  • physical violence
  • threats
  • psychological abuse
  • emotional abuse

The Bill will also make non-physical abuse a criminal offence. It will recognise the impact and consequences of all types of abusive behaviour. This includes patterns of controlling behaviour.

A court may need help to reach a decision on domestic abuse cases outside of their own experience. Expert opinion can be given on reactions and decision-making typical of those traumatised by domestic abuse.

You can find out more in the Scottish Government document that explains the Bill.

Top picture: Anas Sarwar, leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, where justice system is “collapsing in chaos”.

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