Justice Committee gives qualified support to Domestic Abuse Bill at Stage 1

12/01/2011

The Justice Committee, in a report published today, unanimously supports the general principles of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill. However, the committee opposes a proposal to remove means testing of anyone applying for civil legal aid to pursue a protective order in a domestic abuse case.

While the committee supports the general principles of the Bill, introduced by Rhoda Grant MSP, it believes that the removal of means testing would create an inequality between the pursuer and the defender.

The Bill proposes increasing access to justice for victims of domestic abuse. It would enable police and prosecutors to provide a more robust response to breached civil non-harassment orders by dealing with a breach as a criminal and not a civil offence.

The committee also recommends including a statutory definition of ‘domestic abuse’ in the Bill. However, it believes the definition should be restricted to generally accepted categories of partners and not extended to cover other family relationships.

Committee Convener Bill Aitken MSP said:

“The Justice Committee recognises the importance of Rhoda Grant’s Bill and we have agreed to support the general principles of the Bill at Stage 1. However, we cannot support the removal of means testing for legal aid applicants wanting domestic abuse protective orders as this would create an inequality between the pursuer and the defender. We would want to remove this provision if the Bill progresses to Stage 2.”

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