'˜Sobering' rise in number of domestic abuse reports

Domestic abuse incidents recorded by police in Scotland have risen in the past year but the justice secretary says he is confident new laws will help tackle the crime.

Incidents of domestic abuse are more common at weekends. Picture: contributed

A total of 59,541 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded in 2017-18, according to Scotland’s chief statistician, an annual increase of 1 per cent.

In line with previous years, around four out of every five incidents of domestic abuse had a female victim and a male accused, while the vast majority (88 per cent) occurred in the home.

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The percentage of incidents dealt with by officers that recorded at least one crime or offence fell to 44 per cent, down from 47 per cent in 2016-17.

Describing the new domestic abuse figures as “sobering”, justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: “As a society we must work collectively to reduce this number – making clear that such behaviour is unacceptable.

“This includes educating young people about healthy, positive relationships and challenging those who minimise the impact of abuse or gender-based violence.”

Legislation due to come into force next year will introduce a new offence criminalising coercive and controlling behaviour that can constitute domestic abuse.

The crime or offence that was most frequently recorded as part of a domestic abuse incident in 2017-18 was common assault, accounting for 37 per cent of all crimes recorded, followed by breach of the peace, which accounted for 31 per cent of offences.

The findings also showed incidents of domestic abuse were more common at weekends, 35 per cent of all incidents occurring on a Saturday or Sunday

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman Daniel Johnson MSP said: “The recently passed Domestic Abuse Scotland Act is a key piece of legislation that we hope will lead to more women coming forward to report domestic abuse.

“But it is clear our society needs to do far more to tackle this horrific problem.”

The Scottish Conservatives seized on the figures to criticise the Scottish Government’s introduction of a presumption against jail sentences of less than a year.

Shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “After it made this announcement, the SNP was well-warned that abolishing jail sentences of less than 12 months would result in domestic abusers being let off the hook.

“We can now see, over that time period, instances of domestic violence increased.

“Police Scotland have repeatedly made clear they want to get tough on domestic abuse, and that is welcome.

“But it will also be significantly undermined if we have a soft-touch SNP government at the top which wants to let such people walk free from court.”