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SWRC statement on solicitor boycott of s1 Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 cases

The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre (SWRC) is a unique collaborative project that provides free legal information, advice and representation to women affected by violence and abuse.

 

We are aware of the decision by the Scottish Solicitor’s Bar Association to decline instructions in summary cases involving charges brought under S1 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 where the accused seeks legal aid.

We are understanding of the challenges being faced by the Criminal Bar in Scotland regarding their ability to properly represent clients in these cases.

We support the principle that free legal representation for those who need it must be adequately funded to ensure access to justice. It is also required to ensure that the system, for protecting survivors and women affected by violence and abuse, is effective in practice.

The Domestic Abuse Scotland Act (DASA) was brought into force to criminalise behaviour known as ‘coercive control’. This is abuse which is usually complex, systematic and takes place over a long period of time. It involves, but is not limited to, psychological and emotional abuse and manipulation which can leave a victim/ survivor vulnerable and isolated. The effects of this abuse are traumatic and long lasting. Many survivors report that going through the process of giving evidence at court can be re-traumatising and this is compounded when there are delays in cases being brought to court.

Attrition levels in cases of domestic abuse are very high due to a number of complex factors but we are specifically aware that delays in the court procedure contribute to this. Women often disengage from the process due to delays when they see there is nothing to be gained, as they wait in limbo for closure and a chance to move on from the abuse.

In some instances, this allows perpetrators to continue to abuse their victims with impunity and places countless women at risk of further abuse.

We are therefore supportive of a Criminal Bar who are equipped to deal with the sensitivities and complexities that come with working with domestic abuse cases and engaging with victim/ survivors in any capacity. The management of these cases needs to be invested in to ensure that women are protected from abuse.

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