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MSPs hear ‘harrowing’ evidence on miscarriages caused by domestic abuse

MSPs discussed domestic abuse cases (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
MSPs discussed domestic abuse cases (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

MSPs have said they will continue a public petition for tougher sentences on perpetrators of domestic abuse which causes miscarriages, after hearing “harrowing” evidence.

Petitioner Nicola Murray told a Holyrood committee she lost three children during pregnancy due to domestic violence and being forced to terminate.

Appearing at the Public Petitions Committee on Wednesday, she said the justice system “fails on many levels” and her ex-partner was ordered to pay £300 compensation following an incident in 2013 which led to a miscarriage.

Ms Murray, from Perthshire, has set up the support group Brodie’s Trust to help women in similar situations.

She has also launched a petition to “create an unborn victims of violence Act” which would allow courts to hand down longer sentences to abusers who cause miscarriages.

The petition specifies that the Act would not impact on reproductive rights.

Ms Murray, 44, told the committee: “It is life-impacting for the victims and not just them personally.

“In my pregnancies I lost a child, I lost children. My children lost siblings and my parents lost grandchildren.

“Afterwards, it’s deeply traumatising and emotional because it’s not just that you have to deal with the loss itself, it’s the circumstances of the loss and the fact that the perpetrator can get away so easily.

“Often not being charged at all, or as you know from my own evidence just really inappropriate sentencing which is like rubbing salt in the wounds of the victims.

“It’s almost like saying it meant nothing.”

The sentence handed down to her abuser following an incident in 2013 “still grates on me”, she said.

Ms Murray suggested her petition could lead to an amendment to the existing Domestic Abuse Act rather than a new law.

Labour MSP Paul Sweeney described her experience as “harrowing”, and said other parts of the UK have a specific offence of “child destruction”.

Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh
Holyrood will hear more evidence after the summer recess (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms Murray said: “As you rightly state, we’re the only nation in the whole of the UK that is deficient in this area.”

SNP MSP Fergus Ewing said he agreed with Mr Sweeney’s comments, adding: “I’m very sorry that the system does appear to have let you down not just in one way but in several ways.”

Committee convener Jackson Carlaw said the public petition would be continued and roundtable discussion on the issue would be heard after Holyrood’s summer recess.

In written evidence to the committee submitted in March, the Crown Office said abuse which causes miscarriages could be included as part of domestic abuse charges.

It said there are at least six such domestic abuse cases going back to 2016.

The Crown Office submission said: “Where there is evidence that a victim has suffered severe injury, including a miscarriage, as a result of the accused’s actions, this injury would be reflected both within the charge libelled against the accused and the forum selected for prosecution of that offence.”

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