I am not, for one minute, suggesting that this does not set a precedent, but we need to look at every case on its facts. We will see how the directions work in practice. I think that they need to be kept under review.
I will move on to the domestic abuse aggravator. The Law Society, in particular, has been lukewarm about the aggravator. I am not unsympathetic to the argument that domestic abuse cases are assiduously prosecuted at present. Clearly, there is danger in overpromoting the aggravator as a panacea when it simply represents “an additional tool”, as Catherine Dyer of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service described it. We also need to look at it in the context of the recently completed consultation on a new offence of domestic abuse.
I think that the right way to look at the aggravator is as a further incremental step in dealing with the scourge of domestic abuse, and certainly not as an alternative to the creation of a specific offence.
The part of the bill that relates to non-consensual sharing of images generated much discussion at stages 1 and 2, as well as in today’s debate. While there was general agreement on the benefits of an offence that deals with what has been described as a relatively new type of socially unacceptable behaviour, there was a difference of views on whether we should seek to criminalise the disclosure of text messages or written material.
It is very important that we look at the impact on the victim. That should be first and foremost when we look at the offence. My view is that, for the moment, we should take a conservative and cautious line regarding the disclosure of texts or written materials. I understand the arguments put forward by Margaret McDougall and I am concerned about the wider implications for young people.
It is right to point out that the Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie, said in evidence that he was not looking for an exemption for children and young people. I honestly believe that the sharing of texts between teenagers is an industry in itself. Although I understand the views of those who sought to extend the offence, I think that, on balance, we have taken the right position.
I agree with all those who think that we need a proper campaign of information and education to accompany the commencement of the legislation and, as the cabinet secretary said, we should keep the provisions of that part of the bill under review.
I cannot let this opportunity pass without at least mentioning the contributions of Professor Chalmers and Professor Maher in relation to issues arising from what were described in the committee’s report as
“sexual acts elsewhere in the UK”.
I am glad that the Government addressed the academics’ points at stage 2.
I also welcome the fact that amendments at stage 2 put beyond doubt the right of any person against whom a sexual harm prevention order is sought the opportunity to make oral representations.
In conclusion, this is an important bill. I wish it well. It is important that it is the last piece of legislation to be passed in this session of the Scottish Parliament.