Domestic abuse ‘like terrorism’, says top Scots policeman

SCOTLAND’s most senior police officer has supported the claim that tackling domestic abuse is comparable to the fight against terrorism.

SCOTLAND’s most senior police officer has supported the claim that tackling domestic abuse is comparable to the fight against terrorism.

Chief Constable Stephen House’s intervention came as he backed findings by Professor Rachel Pain, who carried out a study for Scottish Women’s Aid in which she described domestic abuse as “everyday terrorism”.

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Victims of both crimes live in constant fear, while the criminals offend to exert control, Prof Pain said. She argued that government spends too little money on tackling domestic abuse and far more on counter-terrorism, even though terrorism affects far fewer people.

Domestic abuse costs the Scottish economy £2.3 billion a year, according to the Scottish Government, while the UK government spends £3.5bn on counter-terrorism. Both Prof Pain and Mr House were speaking at a Scottish Women’s Aid conference on domestic abuse yesterday.

“I actually don’t believe that the comparisons the professor made between domestic abuse and terrorism are particularly much of a stretch – there’s a huge amount that they have in common and it’s a useful indicator to look at the two kinds of crimes,” Mr House said.

He also spelled out how the new single force, Police Scotland, is taking steps to prioritise domestic violence. They will include a specialist domestic abuse task force, made up of 25 officers who will bring expertise and look to establish best practice.

Community centres, housing associations and citizens’ advice offices will be enlisted as remote reporting stations, where victims can talk about crimes when they are not yet ready to speak to police. Officers who attend incidents will also work under rigorous guidelines.

Mr House said: “We tell them [police officers] we want a positive arrest policy. We tell them to go to the scene, to ensure people’s safety, and we expect them to investigate and look for evidence.

“And even if the victim is not prepared to speak, then look for other evidence.

“Often there is corroborative evidence in relation to that, and of course it may be in the future that the Scottish Government decides corroboration is not required in all cases any more and officers will be able to act on that as well.”

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Prof Pain carried out a study of 18 Scottish victims – including men, people who had been in same-sex relationships and recent migrants – and came to the view that domestic abuse was similar to terrorism.

“In most people’s view, the two are completely different forms of violence,” she said. “But they share quite a lot in common. The central part is that domestic abuse also functions largely through fear. We need to get away from this idea that it’s all about physical violence.”

She added: “The one thing about offenders [in both ­domestic abuse and terrorism] is there’s a motivation behind the violence.

“In international terrorism, they’re trying to exert some form of control. He [the terrorist] does that through fear. That’s an important parallel.”

Prof Pain said tackling domestic abuse is under-funded compared with counter terrorism, largely reserved to Westminster.

While acts of terrorism are rare, one victim of domestic abuse is recorded every ten minutes in Scotland. “There’s a disproportionate focus,” she said. “It’s difficult to justify one form of violence receiving so much attention when it’s very rare.”

The Scottish Government wants to save £1.7bn from policing over 15 years, largely through the move to a single force.

Despite this, Mr House said: “I don’t expect to see any reduction in the money we spend and the efforts we put into domestic abuse. It is one of our priorities and therefore we will expect to make sure it continues to be properly funded and resourced.”

William Lynn - Horrifying history of serial abuse

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WILLIAM Lynn was cited as one of Scotland’s worst domestic abusers and the type of offender police want to stop sooner.

The 45-year-old was jailed for at least six years last March for a “horrifying catalogue” of rape and domestic abuse, and will be monitored for life.

The High Court in Glasgow heard he had abused four women, although police believed there were at least six victims, all ex-partners.

“Over a period of 20 years, until a police investigation began, the man instilled fear and terror into six victims – it maybe more,” Chief Constable Stephen House said. “Some had children in the relationship, sometimes not. When he came to our attention a number of charges were brought against him – rape, abduction, serious assault, sexual assault.

“The investigation was only initiated after victim number six was subjected to a horrific knife attack.”