Latest figures still show ‘unacceptable levels’ of domestic abuse in Scotland, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson says
Domestic abuse - Image credit: Holyrood
Scotland has “unacceptable levels” of domestic abuse, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has said, after the latest figures were published today.
In 2016-17 there were there were 58,810 incidents relating to domestic abuse, an increase of one per cent from 2015-16 and consistent with the last few years, where the total number has stayed at around the same level of just under 60,000.
In 47 per cent of the cases, which were recorded by Police Scotland, the incident resulted in at least one crime or offence being committed.
West Dunbartonshire and Dundee had the highest levels of domestic abuse incidents per head of population, while Orkney and Shetland had the lowest proportionately.
The most common age group for both victims and accused was 26-30.
The figures show that 79 per cent had a female victim and a male accused, where gender was recorded.
Of the remaining incidents, 18 per cent were female accused and male victim, two per cent male victim and accused and one per cent female victim and accused.
This has changed over time, with the proportion of incidents with a male victim and a female accused increasing from 13 per cent in 2007-08 to 18 per cent in 2016-17.
However, in cases where a crime or offence was recorded, the proportion of female victims was even higher, at 83 per cent.
Among the incidents where police were called but an offence was not recorded, around half involved an argument between partners or ex-partners that did not involve physical confrontation or threatening behaviour, while another fifth related to concerns about communication from a partner or ex-partner.
Michael Matheson said: “While figures have been relatively stable over the past five years, they remain evidence of the unacceptable levels of domestic abuse in Scotland.
“We know these figures don’t paint the whole picture, as victims are often too afraid to report abuse. We also know domestic abuse disproportionally affects women.
“It is crucial our work continues with even greater urgency.
“We have allocated record funding of £20 million over three years towards eliminating violence against women and girls, and we are taking forward legislation to introduce a new offence, criminalising the type of coercive and controlling behaviour that can constitute domestic abuse.”
Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer from Police Scotland said that the contribution of partners and communities was key and protecting victims “remains very much a priority for Police Scotland”.
He added: “No-one is immune from domestic abuse, it can occur in every type of relationship, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or age.
“Domestic abuse is often about control, the blame for which lies solely with the perpetrators.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP called for more investigation into why certain areas had higher levels of domestic abuse than others.
He said: “The fact that the police receive 161 reports of domestic abuse each day shows just how far we still have to go to tackle this dreadful crime.
“We need to see continued action to give people the confidence to come forward and ensure that the justice system is properly equipped to bring perpetrators to justice.
“It needs to fully reflect the fact controlling and coercive behaviour can be every bit as traumatising and often more long lasting than physical abuse, eroding of a person's sense of self.
“As well as passing the new dedicated legislation, ministers should also work to establish why the rate of reports of domestic abuse is three times higher in areas like Dundee and West Dunbartonshire than in the Northern Isles and ensure that victims have the support and advice they need wherever in Scotland they live.”
Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson, Claire Baker, called for the setting up of specialist domestic abuse courts across the country, as well as an examination of why so many of the incidents did not result in a crime.
She said: “A rise in the number of incidents shows that there is still work to be done in tackling domestic abuse.
“We must be clear, there is no place for this in a modern and progressive Scotland.
“But this may yet only be the tip of the iceberg as often victims are still too afraid to come forward.
“Questions should be asked as to why more than half of all incidents fail to result in a crime or offence.
“We need to be confident that those that come forward receive the support they need.
“The Domestic Abuse Bill is an important next step in supporting victims but it can’t be the final one - that is why we are calling for the introduction of domestic abuse courts throughout Scotland.
“It is vital that every case is treated with the sensitivity and seriousness it deserves.”
A new domestic abuse bill, which will expand the definition of abuse to include psychological abuse and coercive behaviour, is being considered by the Scottish Parliament, with a debate on stage two expected in November.
A domestic abuse disclosure scheme, where people who suspect their partner may have a history of abuse can ask for information about them, was launched across Scotland in October 2015.