Scots police training to spot psychological abuse ahead of new law

28 December 2017, 11:36

Domestic abuse

Police officers are to get special training to help them spot "insidious and damaging" forms of abuse ahead of new legislation being passed.

The Scottish Government has pledged to fund training for about 14,000 officers and staff prior to the specific outlawing of psychological abuse and controlling behaviour.

It is not currently possible to convict an individual on the basis of a course of conduct that includes psychological abuse, such as coercive and controlling behaviour.

But the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, currently going through Holyrood, will criminalise emotional and psychological abuse.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson introduced the Bill to the Scottish Parliament in March and has now pledged to provide additional funding specifically to train frontline officers and staff.

This is likely to cost several hundred thousand pounds, with the cash coming from the £20 million set aside to tackle violence against women and girls over the period 2015-18.

Mr Matheson said: "It's important that as we grant new powers to police to investigate one of society's most despicable crimes, we help ensure frontline officers and call handlers are equipped to do this.

"Police deal with the damage caused by domestic abuse day in day out, and this training will help them to identify some of the more insidious and damaging behaviours that perpetrators use to control their partner or ex-partner which are covered within the new offence."

He added: "Attitudes towards domestic abuse are changing - it's no longer seen as a private matter, or no business of criminal law.

"We're doing everything we can to tackle the scourge that is domestic abuse at every opportunity - supporting victims, tackling perpetrators with enhanced legislation, and also tackling the underlying attitudes and inequalities that very often create the conditions for violence against women and girls to take place.

"There's no place for it in Scotland and this new funding will greatly assist in tackling it."

Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald of Police Scotland said the force was "committed to reducing the harm caused by domestic abuse and is working with partners to eradicate it from Scotland".

She said: "With the passage of the new bill through the Scottish Parliament, it is important we plan now to ensure that officers and staff are suitably equipped to make best use of the proposed legislation.

"We know that the controlling behaviours used by perpetrators to maintain power and control over victims can be both devious and devastating.

"However, to those outwith the relationship, the ways in which a perpetrator will conceal their actions can often make them appear innocuous in isolation.

"We have committed to this critical training to address these issues so our officers and staff can better recognise the signs of controlling behaviours in domestic abuse, support victims and bring perpetrators to justice."