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Rona Mackay votes to criminalise psychological domestic abuse

MSP Rona Mackay speaks at the final stage of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill which was passed by the Scottish Parliament, criminalising psychological domestic abuse.

I am very happy and proud to speak in the stage 3 debate on the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill. As deputy convener of the Justice Committee, I thank the clerks for all their hard work and, of course, the many witnesses who bravely came forward to give evidence and who made it possible to frame such an all-encompassing piece of legislation. I am particularly proud because the bill is a good bill that will give greater security to the thousands of women in Scotland who suffer mental or physical trauma at the hands of cowardly abusers. The bill is, quite simply, groundbreaking.

I am happy, too, that the bill is consensual and that Parliament is united in condemning violence against women and children. As has been said, the bill is historic: for the first time, psychological abuse and coercive behaviour are being included in the vile crime of domestic abuse. The bill creates a new offence of engaging in a course of abusive conduct against a partner or ex-partner, and it amends other procedural or evidential aspects of criminal law in relation to domestic abuse, addressing an important gap in the law. Crucially, the bill acknowledges the horrendous, everlasting damage that psychological abuse and coercive controlling can do. It allows for convictions for domestic abuse based on a course of conduct rather than individual incidents.

The amendments to the bill have strengthened it and I was happy to support them all. I am particularly pleased that the bill includes an aggravation that acknowledges the damage done to children caught up in these situations and ensures that that is taken into account during sentencing. In this, the year of young people, that is a powerful way to demonstrate to young people how important they are and that society is taking steps to acknowledge the trauma that they suffer in situations of domestic abuse. That has not been given enough attention before.

Members will be aware of the revolutionary evidential research from the ACEs—adverse childhood experiences—study. Domestic abuse scores highly in the ACEs trauma index. I hope that the fact that the bill acknowledges ACEs is another step along the way to society changing the way in which it deals with traumatised children and helps them to heal. I echo Children 1st’s call for investment in trauma-informed support across Scotland to help children and families to rebuild their lives.

The inclusion in the bill of the presumption in favour of non-harassment orders is also welcome and will give comfort to victims who feel extremely vulnerable after a court decision. The benefit of the amendments at stage 2 in the name of my colleague Mairi Gougeon will be that children who reside with the perpetrator of the domestic abuse or with the partner or ex-partner who has been abused will also be able to receive the protection of a non-harassment order.

Those measures protect children in a way that has not been possible until the introduction of the bill. I am absolutely delighted that the Scottish Government has listened to the Law Society of Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid, and to children’s organisations such as Children 1st and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, to name but a few organisations that protect our children every day. The introduction of a formal reporting process on the operation of the offence, the extension of the extraterritorial reach of the offence and Claire Baker’s amendments in relation to data collection to monitor the implementation of the bill are all very welcome, too.

Domestic violence—physical and psychological—exists in all sections of our communities, across all levels of society. We may never rid our society of domestic violence completely, but this bill, which puts Scotland at the forefront of progressive legislation once again, should act as a warning that it will not be tolerated. For that reason, I am proud to recommend that the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill be passed.

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