Lord Advocate visits Edinburgh Women’s Aid as Domestic Abuse Bill reaches final stage

James Wolffe QC

The Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, today visited Edinburgh Women’s Aid in Stockbridge, Edinburgh which coincides with the Domestic Abuse Bill reaching its third and final stage at the Scottish Parliament.

Edinburgh Women’s Aid (EWA), provides support and advice to women and children who are experiencing domestic abuse. It also provides the EDDACS service, (Edinburgh Domestic Abuse Court Support and Advocacy Service), which offers support and advocacy for female victims of domestic abuse, to the specialist Domestic Abuse Court (DAC) at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

The Domestic Abuse Bill will create a specific offence of domestic abuse which will criminalise a course of abusive behaviour towards a partner or ex-partner and will cover the full breadth of violent, threatening, intimidating and other coercively controlling behaviour which can destroy the victim’s autonomy, and cause significant and longstanding harm.

The bill recognises the adverse impact domestic abuse can have on children and introduces an aggravation where the offence involves a child. The bill also includes provisions around the future safety and protection of victims and children and will require courts to consider making a non-harassment order following a conviction for domestic abuse.

Speaking after the visit, the Lord Advocate said: ”I am delighted to have had the opportunity to visit and give the Crown’s continued support to the work of Edinburgh Women’s Aid.

“The service that they have provided over the last 45 years is invaluable and I cannot commend them enough.

“Much progress has been made in that time in changing how Scotland understands and deals with domestic abuse.

“The Domestic Abuse Bill will, if passed, make criminal insidious abusive behaviours, intended to isolate, humiliate, degrade, subjugate, punish or control, that at present we are unable to prosecute.

“For the first time, it will allow us not only to lay the whole story before the court, but to mark that whole story for what it is – a course of criminally abusive conduct deserving of prosecution in the public interest.”

Linda Rodgers, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Women’s Aid, said: ”Edinburgh Women’s Aid are pleased to continue to provide the Edinburgh Domestic Abuse Court Advocacy Service, (EDDACS). We work closely with Police Scotland and court services to deliver victims of domestic abuse assistance and support through the court process. EDDACS are able to inform the court process of our clients’ risk of potential harm and seek protective measures. Through our communication with the prosecution service we are able to enhance our clients’ voice in the court proceedings.

“As part of their training on domestic abuse, some Depute Fiscals spend a half day with an Advocacy service. We have been fortunate to have several depute fiscals attend at EDDACS and see how we work with clients and how we pass on information.  This joint working has helped develop our practice, inform fiscals and support joint working. Our priority is always the safety of our clients.

“EWA welcomes the new legislation and are hopeful that once enacted that this will lead to more positive court outcomes for the women we support. The new legislation should help ensure that women’s full lived experiences of abuse are understood and taken into account. This will mean that the law will now recognise what our clients tell us on a daily basis about their experiences which is that abuse is about more than physical or aggressive behaviour.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with all agencies involved in the court process to ensure women receive the information and support they need to help them through this time and that by working together that we are able to help reduce the risk of potential harm to our clients.”