THERE has been a five-fold increase in the number of rape and attempted rape cases in the High Court linked to domestic abuse over the last four years, figures show.
According to the Crown Office, there were 435 rape or attempted rape cases in the High Court in 2014/15 where domestic abuse was an aggravating factor, compared with 88 in 2010/11.
I think it’s a huge area of success for Police Scotland. There’s been some excellent work around this, where some really dangerous individuals are being prosecuted and convictedSusan Brindley
Prosecutors said the steep rise was due to changes in legislation and an increase in the number of historical crimes being reported.
But charities said Police Scotland’s pro-active approach to tackling domestic abuse was also having an impact.
The number of domestic abuse charges marked for the sheriff court was 31,373 in 2014/15, compared to 20,673 in 2011/12 – an increase of over 50 per cent.
Sandy Brindley, national coordinator for Rape Crisis Scotland, said police had adopted a new tactic of speaking to ex-partners of men being investigated in domestic abuse cases.
She said: “I think a significant part of the increase in the figures will be due to proactive policing.
“Often that’s what enables them to have a successful prosecution because there are previous partners of the same man talking about the same types of behaviour.
“In the past, rape as part of domestic abuse was much more hidden. Now the police are more aware and are pro-actively policing it. I think that’s why we are now seeing really successful cases, which ten years ago might not have made it to court.”
Brindley said that interviewing ex-partners allowed police and prosecutors to build more successful cases.
“What they will now do is go and interview ex-partners who will say that it happened to them too. That is enough to mount a prosecution.”
She added: “I think it’s a huge area of success for Police Scotland. There’s been some excellent work around this, where some really dangerous individuals are being prosecuted and convicted, whereas before there may not have been a prosecution never mind a conviction. I would say women in Scotland are safer as a result of the fresh approach to policing in this area.”
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on a draft offence for domestic abuse after calls for bespoke legislation from the solicitor general, Lesley Thomson. The legislation would criminalise “on-going coercive and controlling behaviour” not covered by existing criminal offences.
Police Scotland estimates that around 20 per cent of its time is spent tackling domestic incidents – with a domestic incident call received every nine minutes.
This year’s festive domestic abuse campaign – “Love Doesn’t Control” – focused on coercive control. Christmas is traditionally a peak time for domestic abuse incidents.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said: “Domestic abuse can takes many forms. While most people are aware of the physical violence that is often carried out by abusers, there can also be mental and emotional abuse taking place behind closed doors.
“It is insidious and manipulative and is designed to destroy a victim’s confidence and control their actions through fear of violent reprisal. This emotional abuse might be invisible, but the damage to victims is significant. Let me be clear – Police Scotland will not tolerate this horrific crime in any form.”
A Crown Office spokesman said: “The prosecution of sexual offences has and always will be a top priority.
“Due to the fact that these crimes often occur in private outwith the presence of witnesses or because forensic opportunities can be lost where the cases reported are historical in nature, such cases have always had the potential to be complex and challenging.
“In recent years, however, developments such as the introduction of specialist pro- secutors and a dedicated National Sexual Crimes Unit at the Crown Office and the formation of Police Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Taskforce, Rape Taskforce and the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit have greatly enhanced our ability to more effectively deal with such offending.”