19 September 2016
Highlands& Islands Regional MSP (Includes Moray and Argyll & Bute) Rhoda Grant, has for some time been at the forefront of the debate on all aspects of Domestic Abuse and in particular the support and services offered to victims.
In recent months she has proposed and written to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, on the need for dedicated Domestic Abuse Courts.
This need would entail all the professionals present being trained to a level in all aspects of dealing with Domestic Abuse as a criminal offence, including having the appropriate support mechanisms and services for the victims.
Speaking in a debate on this subject within the Scottish Parliament last Thursday, Rhoda said :
“I was of course grateful for the opportunity to discuss how we can improve legislation to better protect victims.
“ In my speech, I made it clear I was disappointed that the Scottish Government was unable to complete this work in the previous parliamentary session, but I of course welcomed the fact that they are bringing the matter back to the Parliament so early in this current session.
“It is essential to legislate to make all aspects of domestic abuse a crime—not just physical violence, but the emotional abuse and controlling behaviour that perpetrators display.”
“Far too often, I have been involved with constituent cases where the court rules that an abusive parent should also have access to their children.
“This takes no account of the fact that that access can be used to control the victim further or of the damage that domestic abuse does to children.
“We know that children do not thrive in abusive environments. Abuse affects their ability to concentrate because of the fear that it generates.”
Rhoda continued , “The Scottish Government apparently accepts that—it funds children’s workers for young people who have witnessed domestic abuse—but it still allows the courts to give the abusive partner access to those children, which enables them to continue to abuse the victim and children.”
“When it can be proved that children have been physically abused, child protection measures obviously come into play, but that is not the case for emotional abuse.
“ A child who is on a contact visit can be plied for information about their other parent even when the visit is carried out through a contact centre.
“I had a case in which a Headteacher told a mother that, if she really cared about her child, she would put her own needs aside and attend a parents night alongside her abusive ex-partner.
“I find that absolutely unbelievable, but it gives a sense of the scale of the ignorance of domestic abuse that is prevalent in our society.
“At the moment, Women’s Aid groups can have different staff members in court every sitting day supporting just one client.
“While those staff members are in court, they are unable to help others.
“If they had to be in court for only one day, that would be more efficient use of resources and would free up staff to do the work that they are there to do.
“That is even more important given the funding cuts that Women’s Aid groups face.”
“Setting aside days for domestic abuse cases would allow prosecutors and sheriffs to gain a knowledge of domestic abuse, which is sadly lacking in some quarters, and would allow arrangements to be made to keep victims and their families separate from the accused and their families, thereby avoiding chance meetings, which can be particularly terrifying for victims and can provide the opportunity for the perpetrator to undermine the victim.”