Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has insisted he is “more than happy” to consider Police Scotland’s calls for more clarity about new domestic abuse legislation.
He said talks on the issue would continue between the force and Scottish Government officials – adding that Chief Constable Iain Livingstone could also raise the matter with him directly.
Mr Yousaf made the comments to MSPs as Adam Tomkins, the convener of Holyrood’s Justice Committee, said he was “very disturbed” by the evidence Police Scotland had given concerning the Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill.
Police Scotland said it will need “not just further guidance, but further consultation” on plans to introduce a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN) – which police can use to bar the perpetrators of domestic abuse from entering their victim’s home, even if it is also their home.
Mr Tomkins said police officers were calling for further “clarity” from the Scottish Government about how DAPNs would work alongside other court orders, as well as rights of contact and custody that are part of family law.
Addressing the committee, Mr Yousaf said his officials had been speaking to Police Scotland, and that he had spoken to the Chief Constable about the matter.
“We’ve agreed to continue the discussion at official level, but I have told him he is more than welcome to continue to discuss the issue with me directly,” the Justice Secretary said.
“He’s right there are concerns from Police Scotland on an operational basis, it would be silly to deny that.
“What I can do is give you an absolute assurance that we are more than happy to look at what we can do on the face of the Bill to provide further clarity.”
If approved, the legislation gives senior police officers the power to issue a DAPN against someone if they have “reasonable grounds” for believing abuse has occurred.
Under the plans, police will then have to apply to the courts for such a notice, which will require the person who is believed to have committed the abuse to leave the victim’s home – even if it is also where they live – and barring them from entering the property.
Abusers will also be prevented from approaching or contacting their victim and any children under the terms of the notices.
Breaching such a notice could result in a jail sentence, according to the proposed legislation.
Mr Yousaf said the new orders were intended to provide victims of domestic abuse with “breathing space”, allowing them to “take steps to address their longer term safety and indeed their longer term housing situation”
He told MSPs: “In particular, when a victim of domestic abuse is living with the perpetrator it may be quite difficult for them to take steps to address their longer term safety.”