Domestic abuse charges reported to Scottish prosecutors reach five-year high

Domestic abuse charges reported to prosecutors in Scotland are at their highest level in five years, with cases rising during the first coronavirus lockdown.

Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 12:05 pm

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (Copfs) statistics record 33,425 charges relating to domestic abuse were reported in 2020/21.

This is up 9% from the 30,718 recorded the previous year and the highest since 2015/16, following four years of cases remaining around 30,000.

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The statistics cover the period following first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020 and show that while the figures for March were relatively low, this increased from April and May, peaking in June and July at more than 3,300 charges a month before falling in August.

The first lockdown began easing in Scotland on May 29.

Scotland’s highest law officer, Advocate Depute Dorothy Bain QC, said lockdown was “particularly difficult and dangerous” for domestic abuse victims.

Of the domestic abuse related charges reported to the Copfs, the vast majority were prosecuted with 92% proceeding to court, the same as the previous year and up from 85% in 2013/14.

A total of 33,425 charges relating to domestic abuse were reported in 2020/21. Picture: John Devlin

Two of the domestic abuse-related charges in 2020/21 were homicides, 573 were attempted murder or serious assault charges and 620 were charges of rape or attempted rape.

The most common types of domestic abuse-related offences reported in 2020/21 were breach of the peace type of offences at 31% (9,527), including threatening or abusive behaviour, followed by common assault at 25% (7,550).

A total of 1,581 charges were reported under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act, which came into force in April 2019, creating a specific offence of domestic abuse including coercive control.

These were 4.7% of all domestic abuse charges reported but were up 48% on the previous year’s total of 1,065.

A total of 1,045 stalking charges under section 39 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 were reported to Copfs. Of these, 592 (57%) were identified as domestic abuse.

The statistics show the majority of those accused of domestic abuse in 2020/21 were male, at 28,975 (87%).

Ms Bain said: “While the last year has been a challenging one for all of us, for victims of domestic abuse the period of lockdown was particularly difficult and dangerous.

“All staff at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service have worked hard to protect victims during this time by continuing to prepare cases and prosecute offenders where possible.

“The impact of the pandemic on the justice system, particularly the ability to progress criminal trials, has been significant.

“We have been working with partners across the criminal justice system to respond to the challenges and we will continue to do so, with a focus on ensuring cases progress as efficiently as possible during the pandemic recovery.”

She said she understands the “devastating impact” victims can experience and the “compounding effect of delays and uncertainty”, vowing to ensure those who come forward are properly supported.

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