After section 31A

Part of Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:15 pm on 30th June 2010.

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Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 12:15 pm, 30th June 2010

I echo James Kelly in paying tribute to Rhoda Grant, whom we thank for raising the issue. Like him, I pay tribute to Ann Moulds.

We seek to address two matters, one of which is stalking, which is entirely unacceptable. We need to ensure that statutory provision to tackle that is in place. As I said, we thank Rhoda Grant and Ann Moulds for raising the issue and for their co-operation thereafter.

The second issue is ensuring that breach of the peace covers incidents that occur in a non-public place, such as officers being abused because of their service, which they should not have to endure, or cases of domestic violence when no witnesses are about.

I assure James Kelly that we recognise the fears that individuals and the Justice Committee were correct to express. Amendment 63, which is an amended version of a stage 2 amendment, restricts the offence to "Threatening or abusive behaviour". Removing the reference to distress will ensure that we do not inadvertently criminalise conduct that should not be criminal and which we do not intend to catch, while providing prosecutors and the police with a power that is wide enough to deal with the other matters. We are aware of and have taken on board the concerns of some in the Christian community and we have changed what was proposed in the stage 2 amendment, which we did not move.

I assure James Kelly and the whole Parliament that we have taken the appropriate action to deal with stalking and with breach of the peace offences in domestic violence situations or against police officers. We continue to guarantee that those who have Christian views can express their views without coming before the courts.