Recently released figures show that almost 1,700 offences have been recorded under new coercive control legislation which came into effect in Scotland last year. Police Scotland recorded 1,681 crimes in the year to April 2020, after the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act was introduced a year before. This new legislation pulled together parts of other existing laws to class physical, financial or psychological abuse towards someone you live with into the same piece of law.
These figures only cover the early days of the lockdown before the end of March. Domestic abuse support charities across the UK have raised concerns about a rise in cases during lockdown, when families have no other option but to spend time in close proximity. The next quarter’s results and police data will show whether there has indeed been a spike over a similar number of cases compared to 2019.
What the Act Covers
Scotland’s new domestic abuse act mirrors legislation introduced in the rest of the UK. It recognises that abuse doesn’t always have to mean physical violence and takes into account controlling behaviour too. The law defines abusive behaviour as any action which is threatening, violent or intimidating. Instead of listing out separate behaviours, the law instead looks at the impact of that behaviour on the victim. People who are reported for domestic abuse under the legislation in Scotland can expect a prison sentence of between 12 months and 14 years depending on the severity of the abuse, or a fine. Victims may take out a non-harassment order against the perpetrator, and there are further fines and prison sentences for people who breach this type of court order.
New coercive control legislation across the UK criminalised behaviour which the police previously did not prosecute. It’s perhaps therefore not surprising that there were a large number of prosecutions in the early months of the law being introduced. Anyone prosecuted under the legislation obviously has the immediate impact of a prison sentence or fines and having to come to terms with the impact of their behaviour. Longer term, there are other issues which may resurface after a prosecution.
All parts of the UK have legislation which allows people, usually women, to ask for a disclosure about someone they are living with. This is not the same as a DBS check as it only looks at domestic violence related incidents. The idea is to give someone the “heads up” on a violent partner in the early stages of a relationship before things get too serious and it becomes too difficult to break off the partnership. A previous conviction under domestic abuse legislation should certainly be raising a lot of red flags.
Any type of conviction may also appear on a Disclosure and Barring Service, or DBS check. These checks are run on many different types of people in connection with a job or voluntary role. Whether a conviction is disclosed will depend on the type of role, the type of conviction and what other information is held about the applicant.