Psychological abuse to be criminalised in Scotland

After emotional abuse entered the Scottish statutory legal landscape when the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act came into force on 4 October 2017, psychological abuse is now entering the Scottish statutory legal landscape but, this time, in the criminal context.

On 1 February 2018, Scottish Parliament passed the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill. When brought into force, psychological abuse of a partner or ex-partner may be prosecuted in the Scottish criminal courts. Psychological abuse is behaviour which:

  • causes the victim to be dependent on or subordinate to the perpetrator
  • isolates the victim from friends, family or support
  • involves regulating, controlling or monitoring day to day activities
  • deprives or restricts freedom of action, or
  • is frightening, humiliating, degrading or punishing.

Involving a child in psychological abuse of a partner or ex-partner is seen as an aggravation of the crime.

The new law is designed to protect not only spouses, civil partners and cohabitants living together (as spouses) but also people in intimate personal relationships whether living together or not. The definition of “Ex-partner” is to be interpreted on the same criteria.

Certain predictions have been made that the annual number of domestic abuse prosecutions will rise in Scotland by around 10% on account of the new law. That, of course, remains to be seen, as does the rate of conviction of those prosecuted for psychological abuse.

Pic Peter Devlin Written by Claire Thomas, solicitor at BLM

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