Irvine Times, 9 October 2018

This week in parliament there was a strong Justice theme.  During FMQs I had the opportunity to question the First Minister on the impact of the Disclosure Scheme.

The disclosure scheme for domestic abuse in Scotland, introduced after Clare Wood’s tragic death, has enabled more than 3,500 people to request information for themselves or for someone who they feel may be at risk of domestic abuse. The Police Scotland scheme, which was introduced nationally in 2015 after a successful pilot here in Ayrshire, has informed almost 1,600 people about their partner’s abusive past and, put simply, the scheme may well have saved lives.

It is one of a number of measures that make a difference for victims. The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which was passed earlier this year, creates a specific domestic abuse offence that covers not just physical abuse but coercive and controlling behaviour. It sends an unequivocal message that any type of domestic abuse is completely unacceptable.

Based on figures out this week, it is hard to argue that the disclosure scheme has been anything other than a success. Scottish Women’s Aid acknowledges it as a great tool for breaking the silence around coercive control and the violence of domestic abuse, and helping women who may have been unaware of their partner’s past.

The success of the scheme is a credit to the dedicated Police Scotland officers and victim support organisations who work tirelessly to support people through the disclosure process and to prevent people from becoming victims.

Applications from individuals using their right to ask have increased by almost 40 per cent in the past 12 months, which demonstrates that the scheme is being used. The Scottish Government is investing record levels of funding to support victims of gender-based violence through a range of front-line services. That includes funding to Scottish Women’s Aid to train a pool of expert coercive control trainers throughout Scotland, and the development of a range of resources to support groups and external organisations, including local violence against women partnerships. We will continue that support to ensure that domestic violence is reduced and that victims have as much protection as possible.

In chamber I contributed to the Justice committees debate on Remand and took the opportunity to highlight the impact remand and short sentences has on children and families and acknowledge the good work of Familes Outside, Play motivators and Scottish Prison officers in Kilmarnock prison where I saw first hand all doing their very best to make the experience of parental imprisonment and retaining contact with their parent as good as it can be.

SNP conference kicked off on Sunday, I was pleased to hear from Cabinet secretary for Justice Humza Yousef an announcement of a Victims Task Force to place victims at the centre of the justice system and that their needs are heard and acted upon.