26 September 2010

Press pick up domestic abuse predicament...

S3W-36291 - Robert Brown (Glasgow) (LD) (Date Lodged Wednesday, September 15, 2010): To ask the Scottish Executive, in view of the lacuna in the law inhibiting the prosecution of certain domestic abuse cases, when it will commence section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.

Due for answer Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One has to wonder sometimes about the speed and efficacy of Holyrood's parliamentary procedures. On the 13th of September, I composed this blog post on the deeply worrying implications of the case of David Hatcher v. Procurator Fiscal, Hamilton for the prosecution of domestic abuse in Scots courts. Concerned that there was no indication that the press had realised the implications of the High Court of Justiciary's (to my mind, chimerical) judgement and the hence no public pressure to pursue the reforming measures which the judgement urgently suggested, I shamelessly sent a link to the piece to every MSP. To their credit, despite my pseudonymity and cybernattery, a number of them responded directly. My thanks to John Park, Robert Brown, Bailie Bill Aitken, Cathy Peattie, Ross Finnie and Bill Wilson for their responses and to Robert Brown in particular -  who is one of my constituency MSPs - for tabling the parliamentary question quoted above.

However, we now know that by the 15th of September, Fergus Ewing, Minister for Community Safety, was in a position to tell the Scottish Women's Aid Conference that Ministers intended to commence section 38 of the Criminal Justice & Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 speedily, from the 6th of October. Similarly, I imagine that ministers will have had a quiet word with interested figures in Holyrood, letting their commencement plans be known. So a firm intention to act has formed, yet the parliamentary question hangs about, quite unnecessarily unanswered, for two weeks. This hardly seems productive to me, leaving those of us outside the institution to rely on unofficial sources and unconfirmed reports from obscure sometime legal cybernats like myself.

Still, I'm delighted to note that today the Scotland on Sunday has finally run a piece on the implications of the Hatcher judgement for domestic abuse prosecutions and mentioning the hasty commencement order which will criminalise threatening or abuse behaviour in Scotland, protecting  people who find themselves in the situation of Lorraine Hatcher where the offence of breach of the peace so spectacularly failed to do so. I gather that it was my blog posting on the subject, in part, that brought the potential story to the newspaper's attention. Hardly glowing testament to their ruggedly-independent newshound virtues, you might think. Mostly, however, I'm pleased that some recognition of the importance of the issues at stake has leaked into the more public domain at last. Headlined "Law to close loophole on domestic abuse" the Scotland on Sunday report runs across two pages. I also look forward, with interest, to the ministerial answer to Robert Brown's parliamentary question which should manifest next week.

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