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Fresh Wave of Interest in Psychological Abuse Being Criminalised

With increasing talks of a separate domestic abuse offence in England and Wales and the launch of pilot project to help individuals recognize abusive partners, in Aberdeen and Ayrshire there is increasing interest in making course of conduct amounting to psychological abuse a separate crime.

The Scottish Government released details this week of “Clare’s Law” which is to be piloted in Aberdeen and Ayrshire and if successful will be implemented throughout the country.

The law will give individuals access to  information at the discretion of the police, in order to find out whether their partner has a history of violence or violent conduct. Police are able to give information of not only convictions but any behavior which may be of concern. The idea behind the project is that it will allow individuals to make more informed decisions about their safety.

The launch of the Clare’s Law pilot project has coincided with the revalations by Home Secretary, Theresa May that there are plans to develop legislation in England and Wales to create a new crime of domestic abuse.

The legislation being considered will coercive or controlling behavior in a relationship. This may be behavior such as denying the partner money or access to friends and family, emotional abuse, emotional blackmail and threatening behavious. The principal behind the proposed legislation is to take into account a course of conduct or patterns of behavior as opposed to one off incidents of physical violence.

The  statement by the Home Secretary in conjunction with increased discussion of domestic abuse as a result of the introduction of Clare’s law, have resulted in interest in having similar legislation introduced in  Scotland.

Solicitor-general for Scotland, Lesley Thomson, has said that there is an increasing demand for  “bespoke” legislation to cover patterns of behavior over a prolonged period of time which amount to domestic abuse.

Under the current law, domestic abuse and domestic violence can only be caught through another punishable offence such as breach of the peace or assault. However, there is no legislation to cover what can be incredibly damaging psychological abuse.

Mhairi McGowan, Head of Glasgow-based domestic abuse advocacy group Assist, said:

“We need something that encompasses emotional, psychological, financial, sexual and physical abuse. We need to look at all the research and what’s being done in jurisdictions before coming to a decision.”

A Crown Office spokesman said:

“We continue to work closely with criminal justice partners and other stakeholders to discuss the effective prosecution of domestic abuse.”


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