New powers could be given to the police and courts in Scotland to remove those suspected of domestic abuse from the homes of anyone at risk, the country’s First Minister has announced.
Nicola Sturgeon revealed the Scottish Government will bring in legislation for new emergency protective orders to help those suffering from domestic abuse.
Such orders would not require the person at risk to make the application to the court themselves, while police would be able to impose a short-term order directly under the plans.
During her speech at the SNP conference in Aberdeen, Ms Sturgeon urged the need “to change the reality” for victims who are forced “to flee their home”.
The party leader said: “Parliament came together to pass what campaigners described as ‘gold standard’ domestic abuse laws, creating a specific new offence that includes not only physical abuse but other forms of psychological abuse and coercive, controlling behaviour.
“The legislation gave clarity for victims and more powers for police and prosecutors to bring perpetrators to justice.
“But with many tens of thousands of people reporting domestic abuse in Scotland each year, we can and we must go further – and that includes taking action to reduce the threat of homelessness from those who seek safety for themselves and often for their children.
“We need to change the reality that for many women and their children the only way to escape an abuser is to flee their home. It should not be the victims of abuse who lose their homes, it should be the perpetrators.
“So we will introduce a Bill in this Parliament to give police and courts new powers to remove suspected perpetrators from the homes of those at risk.”
A consultation ended earlier this year with many respondents highlighting domestic abuse as a leading cause of homelessness for women.
It is hoped the legislation will be introduced in the current Parliament session which ends in 2021.
She added: “Such orders would allow Scotland’s justice system to safeguard people who, for example, are being controlled to such an extent that they could not initiate court action themselves, and give victims time to seek advice on longer-term housing options.
“While violent crime has significantly reduced in Scotland over the last decade, instances of domestic abuse – an appalling, often hidden crime – remain far too high.
“Our legislative reforms, together with work to promote healthy relationships and tackle the roots of gender-based violence, can help build a safer Scotland.”
Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, welcomed the news, saying: “Domestic abuse is the leading cause of women’s homelessness in Scotland.
“This Bill, if passed, would be an immediate and significant improvement, offering children and women a breathing space as they seek safety.
“Without this legislation, women experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland will continue to have to choose between staying in the home with an abuser or making themselves and their children homeless to get away from the abuse.
“As survivors have asked for years, why should those being abused, rather than the perpetrator, have to leave their homes, pets, and belongings?
“We very much welcome today’s announcement and look forward to engaging with the Scottish Government on the detail of the legislation going forward.”