MSP bills wins support

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has welcomed the Justice Committee’s endorsement of her Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill. The committee has recommended to the Parliament that the general principles of the bill be approved.

The Committee’s stage 1 report supports the general principles of the bill but does not support the legal aid aspects.

The Bill contains three main proposals:

- Remove the requirement to show a course of conduct before a non-harassment order can be granted by a civil court, requiring only one incident of harassing behaviour in cases of domestic abuse.

- Make legal aid available, without contribution, to all for an application in a civil court for an interdict with a power of arrest or a non-harassment order involving domestic abuse.

- Make it a criminal offence to breach an interdict with a power of arrest.

Rhoda Grant said: “I am pleased that the Committee supports the general principles of my Bill. I am disappointed however that it is opposed to legal aid being made available to victims of domestic abuse seeking remedy from the Bill. I strongly believe that victims should not have to pay for their own protection in such cases and that the state has a duty to provide this protection.”

She added: “I have been in discussions with the Minister about possible solutions to this problem and hope we can find a resolution that will provide victims with the protection they require while giving the committee the comfort they require. There is much to do to in order to protect people from domestic abuse. However, every journey begins with one small step and I believe that this Bill would be a step in the right direction.

“Victims of domestic abuse should not have to pay for their own protection and civil protection orders should be readily available and robust in order to protect victims from further abuse. The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill will ensure that vital protection is available to all victims of abuse and will show that we still take domestic abuse seriously in Scotland.”

“The Parliament will debate the general principles of the Bill on Wednesday 19th January and I very much hope they will support it at that stage.”