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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Abuse bill plan put on ice
A woman burying her head in her hands
The vast majority of victims are women
A plan by a Scottish Parliament committee to become the first to initiate a piece of legislation has been delayed.

Members of the justice committee hoped to start the process of introducing legislation to give greater protection to victims of domestic abuse.

But MSPs agreed to put their plan on hold while they try to persuade the Scottish Executive to take on the task.

One of the differences between Holyrood and Westminster is that committees in Edinburgh can initiate legislation.

Police officers
Police may get more powers to intervene
There was an air of expectation among the committee members as they met on Wednesday morning to hear Highlands MSP Maureen MacMillan present a report on the issue.

Current legislation only protects married people - and offers no protection in other relationships, or when the marriage has ended.

The committee had also indicated it wanted sheriffs to be able to add the power of arrest to any interdict granted against an abuser.

Ministers pressed

Members heard Justice Minister Jim Wallace say the executive will be issuing a White Paper on family law reforms in the next few weeks.

He said he was broadly in favour of the committee's proposals on domestic violence.

Ministers will now be pressed to include the committee's ideas in their soon-to-be released discussion document.

If they decline, the MSPs will still go ahead with their own bill, which would be the first from a Scottish Parliament committee.

The committee wants to see:

  • It made a criminal offence for an abuser to breach the terms of a restriction order

  • It made easier for the police to get involved in such cases

Currently any victim of domestic abuse can keep her abuser away from her home through an interdict.

If the offender ignores the order civil proceedings must be taken, but police are reluctant to become involved in non-criminal matters.

If the woman goes back to court, she finds it difficult to obtain legal aid.

Figures published last month showed there were 26,000 incidents reported in Scotland between April and December last year.

Repeat victims

The figures, the first set of nationally-recorded statistics for domestic abuse in Scotland, showed that in 93% of cases women were the victims and men were the perpetrators.

More than half, (14,639) did not lead to the recording of a crime; 39% were recorded as an offence and only 5% recorded as crimes.

In 66% of cases, reports were made to the procurator fiscal with offences ranging from petty assault and breach of the peace to vandalism and non-sexual crimes.

About 33% of those bringing a complaint were repeat domestic violence victims.

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See also:

20 Jan 00 | Scotland
Wallace outlines family law shake-up
25 Dec 99 | Scotland
SNP calls for domestic abuse cash
24 Dec 99 | Scotland
Domestic abuse strategy questioned
22 Dec 99 | Scotland
New phase in anti-abuse campaign
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