The disclosure scheme for domestic abuse has been fully operational across Scotland since 1 October 2015. The scheme provides a person with the right to ask police about their partner’s background if they suspect that their partner has a history of domestic abuse and believe that they may be at risk of harm. Each case is considered carefully by Police Scotland and other agencies to determine whether a disclosure is lawful, necessary and proportionate to protect the individual from their partner.
The scheme receives a substantial number of applications. Last year, 2,401 applications were received, which was a 61 per cent increase on the number of applications that were received in the previous year. A formal evaluation of the scheme will be carried out later this year by Glasgow Caledonian University in partnership with Police Scotland, following a successful grant bid by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research.
I have constituents who have been victims of abuse and are now facing the traumatic experience of possibly being dragged through the courts as their abusers use the tactic of counter-accusations to prolong their harassment. Does the cabinet secretary agree that protections need to be put in place to ensure that that type of judicial abuse is highlighted and taken into consideration when recommendations are made to the procurator fiscal?
I thank Shona Robison for raising an incredibly important point. I have met many organisations that work with survivors of domestic abuse, and they often raise with me the fact that the judicial process—indeed, the justice system generally—is being used by perpetrators of domestic abuse to continue their control over survivors of domestic abuse. It is something that we are very aware of and alert to, and we are taking action on it as well.
I am sorry to hear of Shona Robison’s constituents’ circumstances. A joint protocol exists between Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service that states that Police Scotland must thoroughly investigate the full circumstances of an incident to identify and report the principal perpetrator to the procurator fiscal. In addition, I am advised that specialist training by Police Scotland supports officers to identify such perpetrators’ tactics and protect victims from spurious counter-allegations. If the member wishes to give me more details of her constituents’ cases, I would be more than happy to meet her.
The Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland has highlighted the challenge that social landlords face in managing situations in which both the victim and the perpetrator of domestic abuse are named on the tenancy agreement. What steps has the Scottish Government taken to ensure that the experience of abuse or violence does not lead to someone losing their tenancy?
I will, of course, look at those matters. Again, they have been raised previously by organisations such as Scottish Women’s Aid, and we take them absolutely seriously. The member might well be aware that the First Minister set out in October last year that the Scottish Government will introduce legislation in the final year of this parliamentary session to introduce protective orders, which will confer the ability to remove for a period of time a suspected perpetrator of domestic abuse from a home that they share with a person who is at risk. However, the member’s point about ensuring that the person who remains in the home does not lose the tenancy is very important indeed, and I thank him for raising it. I will, of course, look at such detail before we introduce the legislation to Parliament.
Forgive me, but I might have just answered that question in answering the previous question. The legislation is due to be introduced to Parliament in the final year of this parliamentary session. Work is being done on a number of important issues to ensure that the legislation will have no unintended consequences, which is what the previous question was about. The protective orders will, ultimately, give real protection, safeguarding and security to the many survivors of domestic abuse who, unfortunately, find themselves unable to be protected because of a risk of homelessness.