Scotland

Judges to undergo psychological domestic abuse training

domestic abuse Image copyright Laura Dodsworth
Image caption Some campaigners said the new bill "could change Scotland forever"

Judges and sheriffs in Scotland are to receive special training ahead of a new bill to criminalise psychological domestic abuse.

The online training will focus on knowledge and understanding of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which comes into force on 1 April.

Participants will also complete a face-to-face domestic abuse course.

The interactive learning package was commissioned by the Judicial Institute for Scotland.

The face-to-face courses will be held in the Institute's purpose-built judicial learning suite in Edinburgh.

Coercive control

Sheriff Alistair Duff, director of the Judicial Institute, said: "This approach allows us to provide all judicial office holders in Scotland with an early opportunity to engage with learning about the new offence.

"This is important given the complexities of the new concepts of coercive control and psychological abuse where there may be no physical violence.

"The resource will live on our award-winning virtual learning environment, the Judicial Hub, and will support judges before and during their first cases."

The Domestic Abuse bill, which has wide backing, creates a specific offence of "abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner".

This includes psychological abuse such as coercive and controlling behaviour as well as violence.

Critics claimed it could be difficult to gather sufficient evidence.

Impact on children

However, MSPs voted by 118 to one to pass the legislation, with every member speaking in favour during the final debate.

The face-to-face courses will build on the online learning and focus on the practicalities and issues arising for the judiciary, from investigation and prosecution to conviction and sentencing.

A number of external contributors, including representatives from Scottish Women's Aid and the Caledonian System, will be involved in the face-to-face training to assist judges in understanding how the new offence will be investigated and prosecuted.

The courses will also give participants an insight into the impact of the criminal behaviour on victims and children.

For several years newly-appointed sheriffs and summary sheriffs have received training specifically on the issue of domestic abuse as part of their mandatory induction course.

Specific training on domestic abuse issues have also been incorporated, as appropriate, into other training courses focusing on family cases, vulnerable witnesses, courtroom technology and sentencing.

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