Media Release: Legal expert plays part in helping protect domestic abuse victims

PROPOSED new legislation drawn up by a Glasgow academic and post-graduate student – designed to improve protection for the victims of domestic abuse – is to go before the Scottish Parliament on 1 June 2010.

Clare Connelly, senior lecturer in the University of Glasgow Law School, and James Clark co-wrote the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, on behalf of Rhoda Grant MSP.

Says a spokesperson: “As the law currently stands, many victims of domestic abuse are denied access to justice through the lack of legal aid and are forced to pay for expensive civil protection orders. This is in stark contrast to the abusers themselves who are provided with non-means tested legal representation.

“Many domestic abuse victims are unable to obtain non-harassment orders due to the ‘course of conduct’ requirement which requires evidence of two incidences of harassing behaviour.

“And even where victims are able to obtain an interdict with a power of arrest the criminal justice agencies are not always able to prosecute as breach of interdict is not a crime. This forces victims to pay to bring a civil action for breach of interdict themselves which can be a lengthy, complicated and potentially expensive process.”

The new Bill, which has cross-party support, aims to:

* Remove the current requirement to show a ‘course of conduct’ before a non-harassment order can be granted by a civil court. (Evidence of only one incident of harassing behaviour would be required.)

* Make legal aid free to all for an application to a civil court for an interdict with a power of arrest, or a non-harassment order, where domestic abuse is involved. (This will allow all victims of domestic abuse, regardless of economic background, to access the protection afforded by these orders.)

* Prevent victims having to pay for their own protection.

* Make it a criminal offence to breach an interdict with a power of arrest.

Clare Connelly said: “This Bill will make a significant and much needed improvement to access to justice and protection for those subjected to domestic abuse.”

The Private Members Bill will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 1 June 2010.

Further information:
Martin Shannon, Senior Media Relations Officer
University of Glasgow Tel: 0141 330 8593

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Contact: Martin Shannon
Phone: 0141 330 8593