SOME crimes come into the category known as "moments of madness" where a previously law-abiding citizen commits an out-of-character act, perhaps in a drunken incident — not excusable, but neither likely to be repeated.
But the evidence shows that not all crimes are like that. Some emerge out of a particular mindset and are highly likely to be carried out time and again. That mindset is controlling, manipulative and predatory. At its most extreme it gives us the likes of Angus Sinclair, the World's End murderer who is believed to be Scotland's most prolific serial killer, or sexual predators such as Jimmy Savile, whose vile impulses also spanned decades.
But this does not just apply to such headline-grabbing cases. Such behaviour also features in the daily domestic violence which blights the lives of thousands upon thousands of women (overwhelmingly against women) across society, and this too is unlikely to be marked by one-off, aberrational loss of control. Sexual predators and domestic abusers share the trait that their conduct is highly likely to be repetitive.
Loading article content
Take the case of Fife plumber Gary Mitchell, jailed for four years yesterday for putting a series of partners through abuse and violence, stalking and repeatedly violating the women unfortunate enough to come into his life, almost strangling one of them to death. It was said in his defence that his own parents were alcoholic and he witnessed domestic violence as a child but the key was that, once he started abusing women, he continued abusing women; which is why we welcome the extension of Clare's Law, the pilot scheme allowing people to find out whether a partner has a history of domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme was established south of the Border following the 2009 murder of Clare Wood at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in Salford, Greater Manchester. She had been unaware of his history of violence against women.
The scheme is to be piloted for six months in Ayrshire and Aberdeen, with the promise that it will be extended across the rest of Scotland if successful. Suspicions raised by jealousy or controlling behaviour before physical abuse has even started will be able to prompt a request for information about a suspected abuser's record.
The Scottish scheme has been drawn up by ministers, prosecutors and women's aid groups and disclosure may be triggered by victims themselves, relatives, concerned members of the public or public authorities such as the police or social workers. While there are legitimate concerns about the individual rights of those subject to this scrutiny, and a worry about a culture of vigilantism emerging from such a scheme, on balance the sheer level and volume of domestic violence is such a scourge on our society that anything that might help must be investigated, and this pilot scheme seems a proportionate response.
Yesterday was the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Enacting Clare's Law in Scotland is a fitting response.