It's now a criminal offence to behave abusively to a partner

Sunday, 9 June 2019

What is the new offence and when did it come into force?

  1. new offence of domestic abuse came into force on 1st pril 2019. At Glasgow Sheriff Court on 29th May 2019 the first conviction was recorded. The new offence is under the Domestic buse (Scotland) Act 2018.

What is the offence?

The new law makes it a criminal offence to behave abusively towards a partner or ex-partner on at least two occasions. To be guilty of the offence, the person must have either meant to cause their partner or ex-partner physical or psychological harm, or been reckless as to whether or not their behaviour would cause this. A reasonable person would also have to be of the view that the behaviour in question would be likely to cause physical or psychological harm to the victim themselves.

What is abusive behaviour?

For the purposes of the new offence, a wide range of behaviour can constitute abusive behaviour. As well as covering violent, threatening or intimidating behaviour against a partner or ex-partner, it also includes behaviour which has the effect of isolating, humiliating or controlling a partner or ex-partner. It can include behaviour which has the effect of regulating a partner or ex-partner’s day-to-day activities, or depriving or restricting a partner or ex-partner’s freedom. It can also include behaviour which is directed towards a child of the partner or ex-partner if this is done, at least partly, to effect the partner or ex-partner. Behaviour which occurs abroad, for example on holiday, can also be dealt with in the Scottish courts if the perpetrator is a UK national or resident in Scotland.

What is the sentence?

If convicted, a guilty person can be ordered to pay a fine or sentenced to a period of imprisonment or both. It would also be open to the Court to impose a community payback order which could include a requirement to carry out unpaid work within the community or to pay compensation to the victim.

What does the new offence mean?

  1. new offence is designed to allow the police to fully investigate, and the Crown to prosecute, provided that there is sufficient evidence, the coercive and controlling behaviour, or “intimate terrorism” that previously was not covered by criminal law. Coercive control, or intimate terrorism, does not necessarily involve physical or sexual violence but behaviour which can have the effect of making a person’s world as small as possible, often restricting a person’s contact with friends and family, or their access to money.

Many see this new law an important step which makes it clear that Scotland will not tolerate domestic abuse in any form. Police Scotland are encouraging anyone who is living in fear or experiencing domestic abuse to contact them, or one of their partners, for support. They have committed to taking all reports seriously and to thoroughly investigate all reports. Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Office (COPFS), also take a robust approach to prosecuting crimes of a domestic nature.

Does this new offence have anything to do with family law?

Domestic abuse can be relevant to many aspects of family law including separation from partners and contact and residence disputes. We deal with these matters in a sensitive manner and can advise you fully about your options. We can also advise you about protective orders which you may be able to seek against an abusive partner or former partner.

To discuss matters with us further, please do not hesitate to telephone us on 01383 721141 or email us on

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