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Police Scotland: nearly 1,700 reports of domestic abuse under new law

There were 1,669 reports of domestic abuse under Scotland’s new definition of the crime in first year.

The new Domestic Abuse Act was introduced on 1 April 2019. It criminalised the coercive and controlling behaviours used by abusers and created a single offence which covers the whole range of behaviours whether physical, psychological or sexual.

The maximum sentence for the offence is 14 years.

In 1,565 offences the victim was female and the perpetrator was male in 94 per cent of these cases.

Police Scotland officers attend around 60,000 domestic abuse incidents each year – an average of one every nine minutes.

Since December 2018, 14,000 officers have received a mixture of online and face-to-face training on domestic abuse, including information on the new offence.

The Scottish Government provided funding for the training, which is delivered by national domestic abuse charity Save Lives. Trainers were drawn from the force but worked alongside a co-trainer from SafeLives and other support agencies such Assist.

Detective Chief Superintendent Samantha McCluskey, Head of Public Protection, Police Scotland, said: "Recognising, within law, the full range of behaviours used by perpetrators to control, coerce, and instil fear in their victims, has been the single most significant step in our efforts to tackle domestic abuse in Scotland.

“More than 14,000 of our officers and staff have now been trained to recognise that domestic abuse isn’t always violent or physical. It is often psychological: disempowering and isolating victims and removing them from the support of family and friends, which can have the most devastating impact.

“As an organisation we are continuing to develop a workplace culture where there is no tolerance for domestic abuse and which recognises that the responsibility for domestic abuse lies solely with the perpetrator.

“Perpetrators should understand, we will respond to all reports of domestic abuse. We will delve into their histories, we will speak to previous partners, and we will use all of the powers at our disposal to ensure they face the full consequences of their behaviour.

The force said it is "too early" to assess how self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing could affect such incidents but Scottish Women's Aid claimed women will be "disproportionately affected" by the pandemic.

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of the charity, said: "Some women who live with an abuser will feel increased anxiety around the prospect of self-isolation and social distancing, or even quarantine, in a house with an abuser.

"Or, for the many victim/survivors who do not live with their abusers, they may feel an increased level of fear at the prospect of their abuser knowing that they are at home and the possibility for further surveillance that this creates."

DCS McCluskey went on to say: “During this time of uncertainty, as we manage the challenges and dynamic circumstances presented by COVID-19, our response to domestic abuse remains unchanged. Our officers will continue to respond to reports and will endeavour to prevent harm by identifying people who may be at risk.”

Justice Minister Naomi Long yesterday (31 March) introduced the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill 2020 to the Northern Irish Assembly, which will encompass coercive and controlling behaviour into the definition of the abuse.

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