Prosecution service given extra cash for domestic abuse cases

Police are appealing for information.

Police are appealing for information.

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Domestic abuse cases are reaching court faster following an injection of cash from the Scottish Government, it has emerged.

Audit Scotland said the average time for a case to call was now eight weeks, compared to 11 weeks in August last year.

In a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, Audit Scotland said the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) had received extra funding on top of its annual budget in two of the last three years to help manage caseloads and speed up domestic abuse cases.

The Crown Office, which is facing increasing financial challenges, received an additional £2.6m in 2014/15 and £1m in 2015/16.

The Scottish Government said £2.4m of the money was used to employ extra staff to speed up domestic abuse and sexual violence cases, while the rest came from a £20m fund announced last year to tackle violence against women.

MSPs are currently carrying out an inquiry into the work of the Crown Office and have heard concerns the service is being asked to do more while seeing its budget cut.

The submission from Audit Scotland said: “In both 2014/15 and 2015/16, the Scottish Government provided additional funding during the course of the year to the COPFS. In 2014/15, the Scottish Government provided a supplementary £2.6 million for additional specific court and casework. In 2015/16, the Scottish Government made additional funding (£0.95 million) available to the COPFS to reduce the overall time that cases involving domestic abuse took to reach the courts.”

A Crown Office spokesman said: “COPFS has, in recent years, absorbed within its core budget an increase in the reporting of complex sexual abuse and domestic abuse cases, large and complex organised crime and terrorism case, and new requirements required by legislation.

“Additional funding has been made available to deal with a number of particularly large and sensitive cases.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Additional funding of £2.4m was provided to the Crown and courts in each of those two years (2014/15 and 2015/16) for extra fiscals, court staff and judiciary to help speed up the delivery of justice, in particular for cases involving domestic abuse and sexual violence.”

Last month, the Procurator Fiscal Society warned that if the COPFS budget stays the same in 2017/18, it will amount to a cut in real terms of 21.5 per cent.

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