ONE of Scotland's leading lawyers is calling for specialist legislation to tackle domestic abuse.

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC wants to crack down on perpetrators who subject their victims to damaging emotional abuse, as well as physical violence.

She will highlight the need for a more modern approach to dealing with the crime during the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) Domestic Abuse Confer-ence in Glasgow today.

Currently there is no specific offence of domestic abuse under criminal law.

However, many forms of domestic violence, inclu-ding assault, rape, stalking and attempted murder, are crimes.

The QC hopes that by creating a specific offence of domestic abuse, it would help victims by "acknow-ledging the true impact and consequences of all types of abuse behaviours", including non-violent tactics of control.

The move has been welcomed by campaign and advocacy organisations, who hope it will help give victims more confidence to report to police and go through the courts process.

Other speakers at the conference being held in Hampden include Anne Marie Hicks, national prosecutor for domestic abuse, and Sir Steve House, chief constable of Police Scotland.

Speaking to the Evening Times, Ms Thomson said: "My view for the way forward is that it's time to modernise domestic abuse law and the way to do that is to consider the use of a specific offence for domestic abuse offending.

"That's an offence which would be able to take account for a pattern of conduct and matters that we can't currently put within the criminal law.

"I don't want to give the impression that we don't maximise the criminal law because we use all the offences that are there but we've learnt an awful lot about domestic abuse over the past 15 years.

"And we know from victims that the impact of that offending, they feel, is not always clearly put before the courts."

It comes following the passing of stalking legislation in 2010, which can be used to help jail domestic criminals.

Ms Thomson said the change could take the form of an act or offences inserted into another existing law.

She said: "What we want to do is now start the discussion on how we modernise the law on domestic abuse.

I'M giving my view, now it's up to others to give theirs. We see it as the start of a


"The term that the experts use is coercive control - and that's what we are seeking to bring into the criminal law."

Anne Marie Hicks was involved in setting up the domestic abuse unit in Glasgow, where cases were sent to a specialist court at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

She said: "All of us as prosecutors have come across a lot of cases where this would be helpful. Abuse could happen on a daily basis.

"Somebody might be restricted from having a passport, a bank account, restricted from friends and family, subjected to degrad-ing insults or threatening behaviour and if that goes on the courts are not getting to hear about that or recognising it.

"What we are talking about is really having the legislation that brings all of that before the courts."

Mhairi McGowan, of support service Assist, said creating a new offence

of domestic abuse would

be an "innovative and groundbreaking move".

She added: "We support victims through court every day who struggle to understand why the full impact of their experiences, cannot be taken into account by police and prosecutors. Indeed, the absence of such a crime undermines victims of abuse and colludes with perpetrators as many of their acts go unseen and unchallenged."

"Police Scotland have adopted an approach that places the perpetrator at the centre of their intervention.

"However, if we are to challenge the behaviour of perpetrators appropriately, we need to create an offence that reflects the reality of domestic abuse in all its guises."

Lily Greenan, manager at Scottish Women's Aid, also backed the move.

She said: "Domestic abuse is about more than a single incident or 'fight'.

"It involves patterns of behaviour that are consc-iously used by abusive men to control and isolate their partners, keep them in a state of fear and ensure their silence and their compliance.

"Those behaviours may include physical and sexual assault, and extreme emotional or psychological abuse."

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill added that tackling domestic abuse was a "key priority" for the Scottish Government.

He said: "There are existing laws that can be used to deal with incidents of domestic abuse such as assault and stalking.

"It is vital that our police, prosecutors and courts have the powers they need to hold perpetrators of domestic abuse to account."