Scotland to become one of the first countries to criminalize psychological abuse & coercive, controlling behavior
The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill covers psychological and emotional maltreatment and coercive and controlling behaviour as well as physical attacks.
Examples of coercive and controlling behaviour include isolating a partner from their friends and relatives or controlling their finances.
The Domestic Abuse Bill will make criminal insidious abusive behaviours, intended to isolate, humiliate, degrade, subjugate, punish or control…
“For the first time, it will allow us not only to lay the whole story before the court, but to mark that whole story for what it is – a course of criminally abusive conduct deserving of prosecution in the public interest.”
The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill – the actual legislation
At a debate of a new Domestic Abuse Bill in the Scottish Parliament, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson condemned the ‘pernicious, coercive and controlling behaviour’ of perpetrators.
This BBC News article, Holyrood [home of the Scottish Parliament] debates domestic abuse law, explains how unless psychological abuse and the use of coercive control is accompanied by physical violence or overt threats it can be very difficult to prosecute under current law. This new legislation hopes to provide protection for victims of both physical and the more covert psychological abuse and coercive control. Here is an excerpt from the article.
The new bill will create a specific offence of “abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner”.
And it will also include proposals to ensure psychological abuse, such as coercive and controlling behaviour, can be effectively prosecuted.
The proposals have been given the backing in principle by opposition politicians.
Mr Matheson told MSPs of some of the “horrendous types of behaviour victims can be forced to endure – but which cannot currently be prosecuted by the courts.
“Exerting total control over your partner’s every movement and action, forcing your partner to live in constant fear, is criminal and unacceptable in our society.”
Michael Matheson, Scotland’s Justice Secretary
He said perpetrators “may not necessarily use physical violence against their partner or even overt threats”, but they could “behave in a highly-controlling, abusive way over a long period of time”.
The Justice Secretary continued: “Examples of what abusers may do to humiliate their partners are horrendous.
“For example, abusers may force them to eat food off the floor, control access to the toilet, repeatedly put them down and tell them they are worthless.
“Abusers also try to control every aspect of their partner’s life, by, for example, preventing them from attending work or college, stopping them making contact with family or friends, giving them no or limited access to money, checking or controlling their use of their phone and social media.”
He said where this behaviour is not accompanied by physical violence or overt threats it could currently be “very difficult to prosecute”.
Mr Matheson said: “A perpetrator may have subjected their partner to years of abuse but may only have been convicted of a single instance of assault or threatening and abusive behaviour.”
He stressed the new law would not inadvertently criminalise “ordinary arguments and friction that may occur in many relationships”.
Ministers are also “considering very carefully” how the proposals could be changed to reflect the impact of such abuse on children who are “in effect secondary victims of partner abuse”.
The following article will be of interest to police, criminologists, women’s advocates and academics in the domestic abuse field.
Seeing What is ‘Invisible in Plain Sight’: Policing Coercive Control by Cassandra Weiner, Doctoral Researcher, School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex. (October 2017)
Abstract: Coercive control has emerged as a key focus for researchers and activists working in the field of intimate partner abuse. In England and Wales, the issue has taken on a new urgency. On 29 December 2015, s. 76, Serious Crime Act made ‘coercive or controlling behaviour’ a criminal offence. Implementation of the new offence has been slow. The analysis of data generated by empirical work with police and survivors suggests that police need to understand a working model of coercive control in order to adopt what could be a transformative approach to policing intimate partner abuse.
Abuse Is a Pattern.’ Why These Nations Took the Lead in Criminalizing Controlling Behavior in Relationships – Time Magazine, June 21, 2019