Scottish Minister announces new powers to safeguard ‘those at risk’

A proposed Bill to Parliament will create protective orders to keep a perpetrator away from the household of someone at risk of abuse.

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Police and the courts will be given new powers to remove suspected domestic abusers from the homes of victims or others at risk, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

The Scottish Government will introduce a Bill to Parliament which will create new protective orders to keep a suspected perpetrator away from the household of someone at risk of abuse.

In contrast with existing civil measures such as Non-Harassment Orders and Exclusion Orders, protective orders would not require the person at risk to make the application to the court themselves.

Police would also be able to impose a short-term order directly and to apply to a court to put in place a longer-term order.

As reported by 24housing earlier this year, Scottish Women’s Aid partnered with SFHA, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, and Shelter Scotland to produce a good practice guide on domestic abuse for social landlords to help them prevent women and children’s homelessness.

According to reports, domestic abuse is the main cause of women and child homelessness in Scotland with 78% of homelessness applications received from women in 2017/18 giving the reason as ‘a dispute within the household (violent or abusive)’.

The Scottish Government also held a public consultation seeking views on proposals to create new protective orders that could be used to keep people at risk of domestic abuse safe by banning perpetrators from their homes.

Responses to the consultation, which ended on 29th March, showed widespread support for such protective orders, with many respondents highlighting domestic abuse as a leading cause of homelessness for women.

As announced, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation in the current session of Parliament, which ends in 2021, to introduce a new scheme of protective barring orders to protect people at risk of domestic abuse.

Following the announcement, Nicola Sturgeon said that although parliament came together to pass what campaigners called the ‘gold standard’ domestic abuse laws – further action needs to be taken.

“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.”, she said.

“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.

“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”, Sturgeon added.

Sally Thomas, SFHA CEO has since welcomed the the First Minister’s announcement, saying that no “one should ever become homeless after fleeing domestic abuse.”

SFHA have said that they will work with the government and parliament as this legislation progresses.

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