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30 October 2014
Fines inappropriate for domestic abuse perpetrators, says police chief

Fines inappropriate for domestic abuse perpetrators, says police chief

Legal sanctions for perpetrators of domestic abuse need to be strengthened, Scotland’s top police officer has suggested.
Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House told a Holyrood conference handing offenders a fine for domestic abuse was equivalent to “apples and pears”.
House, who reiterated his backing for a specific offence of domestic abuse as called for by the Solicitor General earlier this year, also intimated a frustration with the leniency of some custodial sentences for those found guilty of domestic abuse.  
A fifth of all police operational time in Scotland is spent dealing with domestic abuse, with officers responding to such incidents on average every nine minutes.
One in seven perpetrators convicted in court are handed a custodial sentence with just under 80 per cent of those sent to prison out within six months, he said.
“I’m not making much of a comment on that, to be honest with you, it’s not my role to do that,” he added. “I would point out, though, if every offender for domestic abuse was given a custodial sentence we would be building three or four times the number of prisons that we currently have in Scotland – we simply don’t have capacity. 
“I would suggest also not every domestic abuse incident is best dealt with by a custodial sentence. But many are and some need to get very heavy sentences handed down. What we’re dealing with here is people who have put partners and people who they’re involved with in a situation domestically, potentially through years of imprisonment and torture in a domestic setting. 
“Perhaps society ought to reflect that when you think about payback time when it comes to prison. That would be my view, it’s a personal view and not necessarily reflective of Police Scotland.”
Latest figures revealed an 81 per cent increase in reports of domestic rape in the first year of Police Scotland, up from 197 in 2012-13 to 357 in 2013-14. Domestic stalking cases, meanwhile, rose 55 per cent from 367 in the year preceeding Police Scotland to 569 last year.
House attributed the increase to a number of factors, including an increased willingness on the part of victims to come forward, high profile cases, as well as a standardised way of dealing with domestic abuse under a single national service.
And the Chief Constable took the opportunity to reiterate support for alternatives outside of the court setting to deal with a rising number of perpetrators.
“I do believe we ought to see court-mandated programmes for dealing with the behaviour of male offenders and female offenders,” he added. “My general view is that most people should, if the fiscal agree, go to court. 
“Somebody has to decide how to deal with people. I can’t honestly see that a financial fine, a financial penalty, is a fitting way of dealing with an offender for domestic abuse. It’s apples and pears as far as I am concerned.
“There has to be something else. There has to be something to change behaviour and I don’t think a fine necessarily is going to achieve that.”

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