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Domestic abusers to be heard in Glasgow's Alcohol Court

28 February 2019 Written by Davidson Shirley Solicitors Category: Criminal Law

From next month, the Glasgow Sheriff Court Alcohol Court is to deal with domestic abuse cases in which alcohol ‘significantly contributed to the offending’.

The Alcohol Court, which was launched as a pilot in February 2018, is the latest “problem-solving court” established in Glasgow following the success of the Drug Court created back in 2001.

So far, those convicted of domestic abuse offences have not been admitted to the alcohol court but this new scheme, which offers an alternative to custody, will let the court consider such offences. The alcohol court aims to address alcohol-driven crime, with a focus on educational and counselling programmes which have been designed to assist perpetrators in reducing, or in some cases eliminating, their alcohol consumption.

Who does the Glasgow Alcohol Court deal with?

It deals with offenders who either plead guilty to, or are convicted of, charges:

  • involving violence or dishonesty,
  • drink driving offences, or
  • public order offences.

It is not an alternative to prosecution, and if at any point the programme is breached by the perpetrator, the case will be sent back to court for consideration of whether a separate sentence should be imposed.

The results of the Alcohol Court so far

In the first year, 61 per cent of the 128 offenders referred to the Alcohol Court have been made the subject of an Alcohol Court order.

Additionally, 51 Community Payback Orders and 27 Structured Deferred Sentences were imposed in the first 12 months. Only three of the orders made have been revoked for non-compliance.

Abusers are being ‘let off the hook’, warns campaigners

However, campaigners have raised their concerns about the alcohol court to deal with such offences, warning it could let violent perpetrators off the hook and, instead, exacerbate the problem of domestic abuse in Scotland.

The Chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, Dr Marsha Scott, explained:

“The more we look for solutions for domestic abuse in alcohol and drug treatment, the more we culturally excuse violence against women.

“Alcohol and drugs can make existing abuse worse, or be a catalyst for an attack, but they do not cause domestic abuse.”

The CEO of Safe Lives, Suzanne Jacob, reiterated this view:

“Alcohol is not a cause or an excuse for abuse. We welcome measures which aim to hold perpetrators of abuse to account and recognise perpetrators should be viewed as whole people, often with multiple issues to be addressed.”

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