Scotland’s new domestic abuse law comes into force

In 2017-2018, Police Scotland recorded 59,541 incidents of domestic abuse across the country: a figure that does not take into account the hidden cases that go unreported each year.

Today (1 April), Scotland’s new domestic abuse law comes into effect. It is a pioneering law, that criminalises psychological domestic abuse and controlling behaviour.

The new legislation describes abusive behaviour as behaviour that is violent, threatening or intimidating.


It’s always important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of an abusive relationship: they can take many forms and do not always present themselves in physical violence.

  • You’re afraid of your partner.
  • They lose their temper easily, over small things.
  • They criticise you and make you feel insecure.
  • They make you show them your texts and social media, or go through your messages without your knowledge and consent.
  • They criticise your friends and family, and try and stop you from seeing them.
  • You are constantly being texted or called when you’re apart, and they get angry if you ignore them.
  • They control certain aspects of your life, such as your finances, what you wear, what you post online and where you can go.
  • They have threatened to hurt you, or hurt themself if you leave them.

The new law takes into account behaviour that makes the abuser’s partner dependant on them, isolates them from friends and family and controls their freedom, including their finances. The offence is aggravated if the behaviour is directed at, or witnessed by a child.


Police Scotland will now be able to include evidence or controlling or coercive behaviour where it coincides with physical or sexual abuse.

The new act also requires courts to consider imposing a non-harassment order on anyone convicted of domestic abuse, to protect the victim from further abuse.


It was announced in February 2018 that the Scottish Government would look to criminalise psychological abuse and controlling behaviour, at a hearing which saw domestic abuse survivors present their stories to MSPs.

It is hoped that the new law will provide better protections for domestic abuse survivors, and encourage those who may be in a controlling relationship to feel able to ask for help and support.

If you are worried that you or someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, it is important to ask for help. It can seem impossible to escape, but there are always friends, family and organisations you can turn to.

The new law makes it easier for police to ensure abusers pay for their crimes. The law is more on the side of survivors now than ever before and it is vital that you know the support is waiting you, whenever you’re ready to ask for it.

Zero Tolerance

Scottish Women’s Aid

Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline

All websites listed above have a ‘Leave Website Now’ button.

Are you following Family Life on Twitter and Instagram? Make sure you do for all the latest. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Family Life

Family Life is Scotland's premier lifestyle magazine, packed with recipes, reviews, real life stories and more. Pick up the lates issue FREE in a supermarket near you.