Justice for domestic abuse victims

Research carried out at the University of Glasgow was instrumental in shaping legislative change in the Scottish Parliament to improve access to justice for domestic abuse victims and has provided the resources required for judicial practitioners in courts across Scotland to identify and engage in best practice.

Between 1999/2000 and 2005-06, incidents of domestic abuse in Scotland reported to the Procurator Fiscal had increased by 67%, with the vast majority of incidents (88%) perpetrated against female victims by mostly (87%) male perpetrators. Repeat victimisation is common among victims of domestic abuse. In 2005-06 just over half (51%) of reported incidents involved known repeat victims.

Connolly also produced ‘Handling Domestic Abuse Cases – A Toolkit’ which provides expert guidance to sheriffs and other court personnel on key issues.

Research in the School of Law identified the institutional barriers to assistance faced by those experiencing domestic abuse. On the strength of her research, Clare Connelly was asked to advise the Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament Rhoda Grant (Highlands & Islands) on the drafting of a Private Member’s Bill (the Civil Protection Orders and Access to Justice Bill) originally intended to address the issue of access to Legal Aid by domestic abuse victims. Grant’s Bill, which became law in March 2011, was amended to include two main barriers identified in Connelly’s research which had not been addressed by the proposed legislation. As a result current legislation in Scotland now provides important protection for victims of domestic abuse that had not existed before:

  • Scotland now has named domestic abuse interdicts;
  • Breaching protection orders is now a criminal offence; and
  • Victims can now obtain a protective order on the basis of one incident where previously they had to experience repeated incidents before a crime was seen to be committed.

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