Abuse and the Law
- Getting help from the Police
- Using the Law for Legal Protection
- Your rights for Staying in your own home, accessing temporary accommodation and welfare support
Getting help from the Police
Reporting your partner or ex-partner to the police.
Reporting your partner or ex-partner to the police is your right and may help improve the safety of yourself and any children you may have.
If you or your children are in any danger or if the incident requires immediate attention please contact your local police office. In an emergency always call 999 (if the incident is ongoing or life is in danger).
Police Scotland are committed to tackling domestic abuse and now have dedicated domestic abuse units staffed by specialist teams. The police treat domestic abuse as a high priority, and there are separate laws for stalking, forced marriage, and FGM. They should respond quickly and sensitively to all of these issues so that you, and any children you may have, are safe.
You can report to the police either through 999 or through the local service number.
If police attend an incident they should:
- Gather all the details of an incident and investigate it fully.
- Put you in touch with a specially trained domestic abuse officer.
- Put you in touch with agencies such as Women’s Aid which can help.
- Take you somewhere safe such as a Women’s Aid refuge, or help you make your own home secure.
- Help you get medical attention if you are injured.
- Arrest your partner/ex-partner and bring charges against them.
It is important to remember that:
- Any person who is being assaulted is entitled to police assistance.
- Assaults which occur between partners in the home are not in any way less serious than those that occur between strangers.
- Assault within the context of domestic abuse is a crime; it should be dealt with in the same way as any crime.
- The police have guidelines on how to they should respond to being called to an assault on a woman by the person that she is living with.
- The police should not ask you if you want to have your partner charged. It is for the police to decide whether to charge him or not.
- You have rights within the legal system that can apply to your home and your money.
How to report Domestic Abuse (use this info in Friends and Family section also)
If the incident requires immediate attention please contact your local police office. In an emergency always call 999 (if the incident is ongoing or life is in danger).
If you have been the victim or witness to domestic abuse, or have concerns regarding a victim of domestic abuse there are several ways you can report this to the police.
- At your local police office. If the incident is urgent, this is the best way to report it. If someone is in immediate danger always phone 999.
- At a remote reporting site (See Remote Reporting in the following section). Trained staff from partner agencies can take your report and forward it to the police.
- Use our online domestic abuse form. If you are unable to go to your local office or remote reporting site (or prefer to remain anonymous), you can submit the form directly to us.
- Download a form and post it to the Domestic Abuse Coordination Unit at the address below and they will forwrad to the local Domestic Abuse Team.
Domestic Abuse Coordination Unit
173 Pitt Street
Remote reporting offers victims or witnesses to domestic abuse, or any person who has concerns for a victim of domestic abuse, the opportunity to report incidents at a remote reporting site, in a confidential and supportive environment.
Remote reporting sites provide suitably trained staff who can take your report. You can remain anonymous if you wish. If you supply your personal details these will be treated with the strictest confidence, however in circumstances where there is a risk of significant harm or child protection concerns, these may be shared with partner agencies.
On receipt of this report Police Scotland will:
- Ensure the safety and wellbeing of victims, their families and any other person present.
- Conduct a thorough investigation of all incidents, securing all available evidence and take appropriate action.
- Actively pursue offenders so they can be held accountable through the criminal justice system.
A number of locations have been identified where you can go to report domestic abuse. These remote reporting sites are listed in the link below:
If it is not possible for you to visit a remote reporting site, you can download a form from the link below and submit it online or print it and post it to the Domestic Abuse Team at the address above who will forward your form to the team based in your local area:
Using the Law for Legal Protection
Everyone has the right to live without fear or threat. If a partner or ex-partner is abusing or harassing you and/or your children, you can use the law to protect yourselves. You can contact a solicitor, local Women’s Aid group, Citizens Advice Bureau, housing offices or law centres. (See Useful Contacts)
If you choose to use the law, it is useful to have as much evidence as possible about what your partner/ex-partner has done to you. This can be: text messages received, calls to the police that will have been recorded, anyone who has witnessed the abuse, and any medical records such as notes taken by your GP or dentist.
To get legal protection, you have to apply to the court. The law is quite complex so you should speak to East Ayrshire Women’s Aid or your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. We can tell you how to find a solicitor who is experienced in family law and give you information about what to expect.
There are three main types of legal action you can take:
- An exclusion order is a court order that suspends the right of a married person, civil partner, or cohabitee to live in the family home. Find out more about exclusion orders and staying in your own home.
- An interdict is a court order that bans someone from specific behavior threatening or assaulting you. Download information on interdicts.
- A non-harassment order is a court order which can be used against your partner/ex-partner, their family or any third party behaving in a way that frightens you or causes you distress. Download information on non-harassment orders.
Your Rights to Protection
Any woman who is being assaulted, threatened or harassed by an abuser can apply through a lawyer for a court order telling them to stop their behaviour. This is called an Interdict. An Interdict can have powers of arrest attached to it.
An order can be granted if you want an abuser to be told to stop assaulting you but you do not wish to have them put out of the home. It can also be granted if you are living apart from the abuser and you still need protection from them. For example, the abuser may be prohibited from assaulting and threatening you in your home or anywhere else, or coming within 50 yards of the family home.
- If the abuser breaks the Interdict, the response of the police will depend on whether or not a power of arrest is attached to the Interdict.
- If there is a power of arrest attached then the police can arrest the abuser if they have reasonable suspicion that the Interdict has been broken.
- If there is not a power of arrest then the police have no power unless the abuser has committed a separate criminal offence at the time. If no criminal offence has been committed you must go to your lawyer about taking your abuser through the civil courts for ‘Breach of the Peace’.
- Under the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981 and the Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Act 2001, you can apply to the court for a Power of Arrest to be attached.
- Your rights for Staying in your own home, accessing temporary accommodation and welfare support.
Staying in your own home.
You have rights to stay in your own home and make an abusive partner leave. You may have to go to court to have your partner removed and to make him stay away. If you have occupancy rights, you can ask a lawyer to apply to the court for an exclusion order under the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981. This is a court order that suspends the right of a married person, civil partner, or cohabitee to live in the family home. You can apply for an exclusion order if your spouse or partner has harmed you, or is threatening to harm you or your children.
You can apply for an exclusion order even if you had to leave your home because of the abuse and are currently living elsewhere, but you will need to apply within two years of leaving.
You will need a solicitor if you go to court to have your partner removed from your home. Download more information on staying in your own home and exclusion orders.
Temporary and permanent housing
If you have to leave your home because of domestic abuse, you have a right to temporary and permanent housing provided by the local council. In East Ayrshire, East Ayrshire Women’s Aid can provide emergency and refuge accommodation via their self-contained flats and scattered accommodation services. It is possible to transfer to another council area for safety reasons.
If you need to leave your home because of domestic abuse, you are considered as being in ‘priority need’ for housing and should be assessed as ‘homeless’. You are homeless, even if you have accommodation and you cannot get into it or there is a threat from a partner or ex-partner if you continue to live there. Housing law is complicated so you may find it helpful speak to an adviser from your local Women’s Aid group or a Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
You need to apply to your local council (housing department). East Ayrshire Women’s Aid can help you do this. The council will make enquiries about your application and must give you a safe place to stay while doing so. If it is an emergency, the council has a duty to provide emergency accommodation. Women’s Aid groups also operate a network of safe refuges. If you do not agree with a council’s decision you can appeal.
If you leave an abusive partner you may be able to claim certain welfare benefits to support yourself and any children. The system is complicated so you are best to speak to an adviser from East Ayrshire Women’s Aid, your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or rights office.
If you are not a UK/EEC citizen you may not be able to claim these benefits. You can get more information on this from your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or welfare rights office.
East Ayrshire Women’s Aid will be able to provide you with, or access to advice and information to ensure you can pursue legal action and seek protection to keep you any children you may have safe.