MSPs approve human trafficking law
As many of you will already know, I have been campaigning long and hard to secure new legislation designed to tackle human trafficking in Scotland.
Yesterday, (1 October), I was delighted to see that legislation moving into place. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill establishes human trafficking as a specific offence.
It also incrreases the punishment for offenders to a maximum life sentence and ensures more support for victims.
You can watch the full debate here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/odz2y78
You will find my own contribution here: http://tinyurl.com/ntshonp
You can read the full Bill here: http://tinyurl.com/njmhqux
It is great to know that we in Scotland are taking the lead here in making life more difficult for those who would force servitude and compulsory labour - including prostitution - upon their victims.
Children are especially vulnerable, snatched out of their homes and placed into alien, often filthy environments where they are held against their wills.
It seems incredible that this slavery is taking place in the 21st century and in a modern democracy, but make no mistake, it is, and to far more victims than you may imagine. The current immigrant crisis is adding to the problem.
The Bill also:
Police Scotland has welcomed the new legislation, and Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone added: "Trafficking is unacceptable. We will target those who trade in human beings and we will work with partners to ensure victims have the support they need.
"The new las sends a clear signal to those who choose to exploit and enslave others that we are committed to ending this horrific crime and that we will pursue those responsible to bring them to justice."
Traffickers, you are not welcome. Scotland is closed to you. Those who are trafficked, are refugees, are in a real state of misery, are entirely welcome here. We will provide you with sanctuary and with support.
We therefore have a moral obligation to ensure that Scotland is an inhospitable environment for those who seek to commit this despicable crime.
This Bill will ensure that we put in place the measures needed to prevent people trafficking men, women and children through Scotland and that their victims are properly protected. In particular, it will strengthen protections for the most vulnerable children through the provision of independent child trafficking guardians.
The solution to this complicated, and often hidden, crime is not just to be found in legislation - that's why this bill will also require ministers to work with others to develop a Scottish trafficking and exploitation strategy. The strategy will seek to increase awareness of the crime, to improve detection and training for staff on the front-line.
Clare's Law deomestic abuse scheme is rolled out in Scotland
A scheme that allows people to be told if their partner has been violent in the past has been introduced in Scotland.
It follows a six-month trial in Aberdeen and Ayrshire which saw 22 people warned that their partners had a history of domestic abuse.
The initiative is named after Clare Wood, who was murdered by her violent ex-partner. Sadly therefore, the legislation is too late for her but many more women are now in a position to check out the background of a partner.
The 36 year old was strangled and set on fire by George Appleton in Salford in 2009. She was unaware of his history of violence against women.
Her father, Michael Brown, has campaigned for people to have the right to ask for information about partners, and for the police and other agencies to have the power to take the initiative and tell someone if there are grounds for concern.
Police Scotland said the aim of the scheme was to prevent domestic abuse by "empowering" men and women with the "right to ask".
In the past, it was difficult for anyone entering a new relationship to find out if their partner had prior convictions for violence or domestic abuse.
Disclosures can also be triggered by friends, relatives, social workers or police officers. If checks show that someone does have a record of abusive behaviour, the police will consider sharing the information with the people "best placed" to protect potential victims. Requests are made via a form on the Police Scotland website.
The force's figures show that the number of domestic abuse incidents reported in Scotland from 1 April 2014 - 31 March 2015 increased by 1,076 to 59,471 compared to the same period the year before.
So the Scottish Government is clocking up important achievements that include a new Equally Safe Justice Expert Group, a summit with academics and practitioners looking at work to prevent domestic abuse in Scotland.
And the Scottish Government is providing record funding to tackle all violence against women and girls - £20 million over 3 years on top of existing funding.
Later in the year, our Government has committed to introducing an Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Bill which, among other things, will create a new offence of sharing private intimate images - that is, revenge porn - something else I've been campaigning hard for having seen some of the life-wrecking impact on young lives.
That is an action that is well supported by many agencies who have seen the damage first-hand.
‘We support the bringing forward of this legislation. In particular, a specific offence to tackle the issue of the sharing of intimate images will bring much needed clarity to the law and help reassure victims that they can achieve access to justice. This Bill will take matters forward, but it has to be seen within a much wider programme of activity that the Scottish Government is pursuing and of course a specific offence of domestic abuse is still required with a public consultation the right way to develop such an offence.
At its heart though, this programme is about tackling gender inequality which is at the root cause of violence against women. By addressing this inequality, the Scottish Government is showing leadership on this critical issue.’
Mhairi McGowan, Head of Service, ASSIST & Domestic Abuse Services, Community Safety Glasgow
‘Rape Crisis Scotland welcomes the planned introduction of jury directions in sexual offence trials. Jury members may hold their own views about what they would do if they were sexually attacked, and may judge a complainer’s behaviour in light of this. It is unreasonable to expect jury members to know for example that freezing and being unable to fight back is a very common reaction to a trauma such as rape. It is important to ensure that jury members are equipped with factual information they may need to help them come to the right decision, and that this decision making is not marred by erroneous preconceptions about behaviour.’
Sandy Brindley, National Coordinator, Rape Crisis Scotland
“We welcome the announcement today that the Scottish Government will introduce legislation which will go some way towards addressing domestic abuse.
“The announcements made today recognise the seriousness with which domestic abuse must be taken by politicians, police and the legal system, and places a greater focus on the perpetrators of crimes against women and children, rather than the behaviour of their victims.
Dr Marsha Scott, Scottish Women's Aid Chief Executive.