Consultation on protective orders for people at risk of domestic abuse

Closed 29 Mar 2019

Opened 21 Dec 2018

Feedback Updated 15 Oct 2019

We Asked

Should the Police and Courts be given new powers to impose protective orders to remove suspected perpetrators from a home they share with a person at risk of domestic abuse without the need for that individual to apply to the court themselves.

We also sought views on whether the existing system of Exclusion Orders should be reformed.

You Said

The great majority of respondents who expressed a view supported providing the police with a power to impose emergency protective orders to remove a suspected perpetrator of domestic abuse from the household of a person at risk of domestic abuse.  There was almost unanimous agreement that the courts should have a power to impose a longer-term protective order.

We Did

The  First Minister announced on Tuesday 15 October that the Scottish Government will introduce legislation in this Parliament to introduce a new scheme of protective barring orders for people at risk of domestic abuse.  The views offered to this consultation will inform development of this legislation.

Results Updated 15 Oct 2019

A full analysis will be published in the coming months.  Meantime, a high level overview of the consultation responses is as follows.

Responses received

A total of 77 responses were received to the consultation on protective orders for people at risk of domestic abuse and proposals for reforms to the current system of exclusion orders.  We have published the responses where permission has been given to do so.

 29 responses were from individuals, 10 were from organisations representing victims of crime or abuse (e.g. Women’s Aid groups), 9 responses were from Violence Against Women/Gender Based Violence Partnerships, 7 were from Local Authorities, 6 were from justice/legal sector organisations, 5 came from organisations representing housing interests, 4 were from health bodies (e.g. NHS Boards) and 7 were from other organisations.

General views

The great majority of respondents who expressed a view supported providing the police with a power to impose emergency protective orders to remove a suspected perpetrator of domestic abuse from the household of a person at risk of domestic abuse.  There was almost unanimous agreement that the courts should have a power to impose a longer-term protective order. 

The great majority of responses came from individuals who had experienced abuse and from organisations who work with or represent the interests of those who have experienced domestic abuse. 

Specific policy issues to be considered

Length of time for which protective orders should run

There were a range of views on how long any police-imposed emergency orders and court-imposed protective orders should be able to run for.  This appears to reflect differing views regarding how long is required to enable a person at risk of abuse to make longer-term arrangements to secure their safety and, indeed, whether the court process could itself be used to put in place such long-term arrangements with some respondents expressing the view that the courts should be empowered to prohibit a perpetrator from returning to a shared home for an indefinite period.

Who should be able to apply to the courts for protective orders

There was support from the majority of respondents for the idea that the power to apply to the courts for a protective order to remove a suspected perpetrator from shared housing should not be limited to the police.  There were a range of views regarding what other organisations should be able to make such an application, with local authorities (particular reference was made by a number of respondents to local authority social work), specialist domestic abuse support organisations, and housing providers frequently being suggested.

There was also a range of views on whether the prior consent of the person at risk must always be obtained, with some respondents seeing it as vital to ensure that their interests and views are respected, while others highlighted that a victim of abuse may not always be in a position to give fully informed consent.

Who should be covered by any scheme of protective orders

There were mixed views from consultation respondents on the question of whether the power to use protective orders to remove a suspected perpetrator of abuse from a shared home should be restricted to partners/ex-partners (as per the Scottish Government’s definition of domestic abuse) or whether any power to impose protective orders should be expanded to cover e.g. other adult family members or unrelated individuals living in shared housing.  A majority of respondents who expressed a view supported restricting to partners/ex-partners but a significant minority (around a third) thought it should be wider.

Should protective orders be used to impose conditions beyond removal from shared housing

Almost all respondents who expressed a view were of the view that it was vital that if protective orders are to provide effective protection to people at risk of abuse, then as well as removing a suspected perpetrator from a family home, they should also be capable of being used to impose conditions similar to those which can be imposed by interdicts or non-harassment orders, such as not attempting to contact the person to be protected and not approaching their place of work or study. 

A great majority of respondents also thought that such orders should be capable of prohibiting the suspected perpetrator from approaching or making contact with any children living with the person to be protected.

Other more general points made in consultation responses

A number of consultation respondents highlighted what they saw as the importance of people at risk of domestic abuse having access to support services which can assist them in making long-term decisions in order to ensure their personal safety if the creation of shorter-term protective orders are to be effective. Several of these specifically highlighted access to legal advice.  A number of respondents also highlighted the importance of clear training and guidance being made available to professionals working in this area if any new scheme of protective orders is to be effective.

Next Steps

The  First Minister announced on Tuesday 15 October that, taking account of the support shown in response to this consultation, the Scottish Government will introduce legislation in this Parliament to introduce a new scheme of protective barring orders for people at risk of domestic abuse.  The views offered to this consultation will inform development of this legislation.

Published Responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.

Overview

The consultation seeks views on proposals to create new protective orders that could be used to keep people at risk of domestic abuse safe by banning perpetrators from their homes and on also seeks views on whether changes are needed to the current system of exclusion orders which allow a victim of domestic abuse to apply to suspend the right of their partner to live in the family home.

In contrast with existing civil measures such as Non-Harassment Orders and Exclusion Orders, the approach proposed in the consultation would not require the person at risk to make the application to the court themselves for one of these protective orders. This may be key to ensuring the safety of a person at risk, especially where the effect of abuse, and especially coercive control, is such that that they are not in a position to initiate civil proceedings against the person putting them at risk.

Why We Are Consulting

Consultation is an essential part of the policy making process. Responses to the consultation will be used to help inform development of policy on the introduction of new protective orders and consideration of whether changes are required to the existing law concerning exclusion orders.
 

What Happens Next

Consultation responses will be considered carefully and we will take account of views expressed when developing policy concerning the introduction of any new protective orders for people at risk of harm through domestic abuse, and whether changes are needed to the current system of exclusion orders.

Interests

  • Children and Families
  • Equality, Welfare and Rights
  • Housing and Regeneration
  • Law and Order