The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee today issued a call for written evidence on the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill.
The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Bill, introduced into the Scottish Parliament on 8 October, aims to prevent abuse, harassment or sexual harm in a number of ways, via both the criminal and the civil law.
The Bill also extends the circumstances where courts may grant non-harassment orders against individuals, and updates the law on the prevention of sexual harm by people considered to be at risk of offending.
Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP said:
“This Government Bill seeks to address abusive and unacceptable behaviour in a number of ways. Most attention is likely to focus on section 2, which seeks to criminalise the apparently growing problem of “revenge porn”.
“But the Bill does much more than this. For instance, it will allow courts to set tougher sentences in cases where the prosecution proves that domestic abuse was an element, by treating the abuse as a statutory aggravation
“And it will also require judges, in certain circumstances, to give directions to juries to avoid them drawing what could be the wrong inference from the behaviour of the alleged victim in sexual offence cases.
“Everyone agrees that we need strong, tough laws to deal with abuse and sexual harm. New laws should also be flexible enough to respond to new developments and changed circumstances.
“The law also needs to be consistent, clear and fair, whatever the subject matter. And we should only introduce new laws if we can agree that they will fix a problem that current law is not able to address.
“Our job as the Committee scrutinising this Bill over the coming weeks will be to take all these factors into account. Contributions from well-informed stakeholders are a crucial part of the scrutiny process and we hope that as many individuals and organisations as possible will respond positively to our call for evidence.”
Read the formal call for evidence here. The closing date for submissions is 17 November 2015.
The Justice Committee expects to be appointed lead Committee for Stage 1 consideration later in October and to begin taking oral evidence around the middle of November, before reporting on the Bill’s general principles very early in the New Year.