Domestic and child abuse laws ‘one step closer’ to becoming law (update)

List MSP Pam Gosal at her desk in the Scottish Parliament.

By Bill Heaney

The Domestic Abuse (Prevention) Bill proposal brought forward by Scottish Conservative MSP Pam Gosal has moved “one step closer” to becoming law.

On Thursday, Pam Gosal will publish the final bill proposal and seek to gain the necessary cross-party support for the bill to progress further.

Scottish Government statistics show there were 64,807 criminal incidents of domestic abuse in 2021-22, over half of which were repeat offences.

Ms Gosal’s Domestic Abuse (Prevention) Bill would bring in a reporting system for domestic abuse, which would be similar to the sex offenders’ register.

It also contains measures that would increase education around domestic abuse, which would help to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.

At the consultation stage, 23 organisations voiced support for the proposal. 

More than 91 per cent of all people and organisations who responded to the consultation were supportive, with 86 per cent of respondents saying they were “fully supportive”.

Pam Gosal said: “We are one step closer to passing my bill and improving the support available for survivors of domestic abuse, although there is a lot of hard work still to do before it can become law.

“I hope MSPs from other parties will support my proposal as it would help to protect victims, increase public knowledge of domestic abuse, and give police additional resources to tackle this appalling crime.

“I have been heartened by support for the bill from survivors of abuse and I am cautiously optimistic that it can gain cross-party support. I urge MSPs from every party to consider backing it.”

Meanwhile, new statutory guidance on restraint and seclusion in schools in Northern Ireland has sparked fresh calls from campaigners for the SNP to act in Scotland.

As it stands the use of physical restraint and seclusion in Scottish schools is regulated only by guidance rather than law – but Daniel Johnson MSP has proposed a Members Bill to enshrine this guidance in law.

The lack of statutory underpinning means data on the issue isn’t consistently gathered. However, campaigner Beth Morrison’s charity, Positive and Active Behaviour Support Scotland reported that 1,756 families have come forward with reports of their children being physically and emotionally harmed as a result of restraint and seclusion in Scotland’s schools since 2017, with children with special needs being disproportionately affected.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recently recommended that Scotland improves the data it gathers on seclusion and restraint of children and introduce statutory guidance to ensure it is only used as a last resort.

The Department of Education in Northern Ireland recently published a consultation for Statutory Guidance on the issue, which places a huge emphasis on the importance of recording, reporting and monitoring.

The consultation in Northern Ireland has led to renewed calls from both Scottish Labour and from campaigners who have long fought for action in Scotland. 

Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, left,  said: “It’s clear there is a very real crisis unfolding in Scotland’s schools, but the SNP is asleep at the wheel.

“We must act now to protect children and I hope Northern Ireland’s decision to act is a wake-up call for Scottish Ministers.

“It is time to tackle this scandal and bring Scotland’s laws into line with international best practice, and I hope the SNP-Green government will back my bill doing that.”

Beth Morrison, who’s campaigned against the use of restraint and seclusion for the past 13 years, said:  “These figures demonstrate that our school children are being failed in Scotland’s schools.

“I’ve campaigned to prevent the harmful use of restraint and seclusion for the past 13 years, so that we can finally see an end to such tragic incidents of physical and emotional harm.

“Daniel’s bill in Scotland and the work of the Department of Education in Northern Ireland represent a huge step in this fight.

“Daniel’s consultation closes on September 29th and I urge you to share your views, so that the Scottish Government finally takes meaningful action to protect our children. They deserve better.”

Leave a Reply