Important distinction missing in abuse Bill, Faculty says

05 May


Concern has been raised by the Faculty about a key element of plans to outlaw psychological domestic abuse.

It fears the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill “does not capture or reflect” an important distinction between coercive control and limited incidents of abusive behaviour which are not used to control a partner.

In response to a call for evidence from the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, the Faculty reiterated its support for a specific offence of abusive behaviour, but noted that creating an offence to cover physical and non-physical abuse was “challenging”.

It observed that the official definition of domestic abuse utilised in Scotland contained behaviours which were not currently criminalised but common in abusive relationships, such as depriving or controlling freedom of action.

“The Faculty recognises that where such behaviours occur against a background of coercive control, such behaviours can be very damaging and should, ideally, be prohibited by law,” stated the response.

The Faculty said it was necessary for the Bill to distinguish non-physical incidents which could come under the category of “common couple violence”  – occurrence of one or two incidents which are not used as part of a pattern of behaviour to control the partner – and coercive control.

“The Faculty appreciates that to incorporate such a distinction into legislation is complex and has been attempted in this Bill by the reference to ‘a course of behaviour which is abusive’, which is defined as being on at least two occasions.

“Whilst this definition avoids criminalisation of single isolated incidents, the Faculty is of the view that it does not capture or reflect the distinction between coercive control and common couple violence.”