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Wives (Assaults By Husbands)

Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 12 February 1975

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asked the Lord Advocate whether he is satisfied with the procedures for prosecution in cases of wives assaulted by husbands.

Will the Lord Advocate clear up a widespread misapprehension and confirm that the police have power to interfere in cases of assault by husbands on wives without regard to the severity of the injuries caused, and that in certain circumstances they have the power of arrest, as in any other breach of the peace? Has there been an increase in the number of cases coming before the courts, and will the recently-announced Select Committee on violence in marriage include a Scottish remit?

That is a complex question. In reply to the middle part of the question, I regret to say that I cannot give my hon. Friend the figures. Perhaps he will table a Question on that point. On the last point mentioned by my hon. Friend, the Select Committee contains two Scottish Members of Parliament. Its terms are general, and apply to Scotland as well as to other parts of the United Kingdom.

In regard to the point put to me about the power of the police in these matters, it must be said that the police, naturally, are reluctant to interfere in a matrimonial affair unless it is clear that one of the spouses wishes a charge to be brought.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that assaults by husbands on wives need not necessarily be confined to a physical assault? Is he satisfied that the procedure applying to cases of mental assault is correct?

Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend did not hear my supplementary question. I asked whether he was satisfied that since an assault need not necessarily be confined to a physical assault the procedure relating to assault through mental processes is the correct one?

I must confess that now I do not know whether to agree or disagree with my hon. Friend. I think that before I conclude I should take the opportunity of congratulating the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on assuming the place of honour which she now occupies on the Opposition Front Bench. I hope that she will occupy that position for a long time to come.