Domestic abuse reports rise by 7% in a year in Scotland

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Media captionDomestic abuse was most likely to happen to women aged between 22 and 25, the figures showed

The number of reported incidents of domestic abuse in Scotland has increased by 7% in a year, government figures have shown.

The chief statistician said police recorded 59,847 cases in 2011-2012, rising from 55,698 the previous year.

But there was a 4% drop in the number of domestic abuse incidents being recorded as a crime or offence.

The Scottish government said the figures showed too many women and men were still being subjected to abuse.

According to the figures, domestic abuse was most likely to happen in the home, where 87% of incidents took place in 2011-12.

The victim was most commonly a woman, with 81% of cases having a female victim and male perpetrator. And women were at most risk between the ages of 22 and 25, while men were most likely to be victims between 31 and 35 years old.

The number of cases with a male victim and female perpetrator stood at 17% in 2011-12, which is an annual increase of one percentage point. There has been an 8% rise in these cases since 2002-03.

A total of 62% of cases this year involved people who had also been a victim of domestic abuse in the past, compared to 55% in 2010-11.

Sex offences

Assault, which accounted for 44% of all incidents, was the most commonly recorded crime or offence, with threatening or abusive behaviour second most common, at 17%.

The categories which saw significant falls were breach of the peace - which fell from 8,034 last year to 3,281 in 2011-12 - and attempted murders and serious assaults, which dropped from 369 to 307 - the lowest level over the 10-year period.

There was an increase in sex offences, from 185 in 2010-11 to 223 this year. In 2002-03 there were 79 reports of sexual offences so the current figure is nearly triple that of 10 years ago.

In 54% of cases, the domestic abuse incident was recorded as a crime or offence, compared to 58% the previous year.

The highest proportion of incidents to crimes was recorded by Grampian Police, at 69%, and the lowest was in the Lothian and Borders force area, at 33%.

And when an incident resulted in a crime or offence being recorded, a report was submitted to the procurator fiscal in 77% of cases in 2011-12, compared to 71.6% in 2010-11.

Dr Cheryl Stewart, from Scottish Women's Aid, said: "That a report of domestic abuse is made every 10 minutes is alarming, and we remain committed to stopping domestic abuse in Scotland.

"However, we are cautiously hopeful that the most recent statistics represent a willingness in victims to come forward, as SWA's members have also reported in increase in demand for their services.

"We are concerned that so few reports are being recorded as a crime or offence, and would welcome further analysis as to why this is happening."

She added: "We want to see the police enabled to gather and build strong cases that bring perpetrators of domestic abuse to justice, and are particularly looking forward to working with Scotland's new police force to improve practice and consistency in the handling of domestic abuse cases.

"The increase in crimes or offences reported to the Procurator Fiscal, however, is a positive step.

"Recent legislation around stalking and threatening or abusive behaviour is clearly being treated with appropriate seriousness - these are tactics commonly used by perpetrators to exert control over women and children, and we are pleased to see this recognised."

'Rigorous approach'

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "The authorities take domestic abuse extremely seriously with police adopting a rigorous approach to tackling incidents since 2005 and I welcome the increase in reports submitted to the procurator fiscal to 77% from 59% in 2002-03.

"The Scottish government has committed £34m to tackling domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women over the next three years - more than double the investment made previously and we will continue to prioritise this work.

"Since 2007, funding for Violence Against Women work, including domestic abuse, has doubled and the Scottish government has demonstrated its commitment to maintaining spending in this crucial area of work."

He added: "We will also continue to work closely with police, councils, health boards and the voluntary sector to ensure that perpetrators are held to account, and that victims and their children have the services they require."

Lewis Macdonald, Labour's justice spokesman, said: "To have such a high number of domestic abuse incidents is very concerning. While it may show that more victims are coming forward it also shows we need to do more to stop domestic abuse in the first place.

"The increase in repeat victims raises concerns about how victims are being supported when they first come forward to report abuse. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to make this step and we need to ensure that when it is made, victims are protected.

"We need to roll out dedicated domestic abuse courts across the country and the single police force must take forward the example of Strathclyde Police by bringing forward a Domestic Abuse Taskforce."

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