Domestic Abuse Interdicts
20 July 2011

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2011 came into force on 20 July 2011. This Act introduces Domestic Abuse Interdicts by the addition of s8A to the Protection from Harrassment Act 1997. Domestic abuse interdicts differ from interdicts in the 1997 Act in that the pusuer does not have to establish there has been a course of conduct but can rely on conduct on only one occasion. As with the 1997 Act, an interdict can be based on speech or harassment causing the person alarm or distress. However conduct in the context of a domestic abuse interdict also includes presence in any place or area meaning an interdict can be granted where the defender is say in the vicinity of the pursuer’s home.

The applicant for an interdict has to make application to the court for a determination that the interdict is a domestic abuse interdict. To determine that an interdict is a domestic abuse interdict the court must be satisfied that the interdict is to be granted against a person who is or was the applicant’s spouse, the applicant’s civil partner, living with the applicant as if they were husband or wife or civil partners, or in an intimate relationship with the applicant. The person against whom the interdict is granted must be given an opportunity to make representations regarding the application.

Before the domestic abuse interdict takes effect, a copy of the interlocutor determining that it is a domestic abuse interdict must be served on the defender. Chapter 41A has been added to the Ordinary Court Rules by the Act of Sederunt (Sheriff Court Rules) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 2) 2011.

Intimation of a determination that an interdict is a domestic abuse interdict is made by serving Form DA1 on the defender and an execution of service must be lodged in process in Form DA2. Service of Form DA1 will be in addition to service of the interlocutor granting an interdict. The sheriff can appoint someone to make the intimation of any power of arrest attached to the interdict to the relevant Chief Constable.

Use of interdicts in domestic situations dropped after the introduction of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. There is no definitive evidence as to why this happened. The 2011 Act appears to be an attempt to reverse downturn in the use by including mere presence in an area and also restricting the grounds to conduct on only one occasion. One factor that has been mentioned anecdotally as a factor in the downturn has been difficulty in obtaining legal aid for such actions. In the course of the Bill’s passage through Parliament, specific provisions regarding legal aid were removed from the bill. Rhoda Grant MSP, who introduced the Bill, did state in Parliament that she had been given reassurance by the Scottish Legal Aid Board that emergency legal aid will be available in emergency situations. We can but wait and see if this will lead to greater use of interdicts in domestic situations.