Lothian police ‘did not act on domestic abuse’

Stephen House. Picture: Robert Perry
Stephen House. Picture: Robert Perry
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THOUSANDS of cases of domestic violence were ignored by the former Lothian and Borders police force, according to Scotland’s chief constable Stephen House.

He published figures showing that the number of crimes of domestic abuse recorded in the area had more than doubled since the new single Scotland-wide police force came into existence a year ago.

Critics have claimed the single force has led to “Strathclydisation” of policing in Edinburgh and elsewhere as Sir Stephen, former chief constable of Strathclyde, introduced his favoured approaches and priorities across the country.

But Sir Stephen cited the domestic violence statistics as evidence of the benefits of spreading good practice as a result of the creation of Police Scotland.

He said domestic abuse figures in the former Strathclyde area and Central and Grampian had hardly changed over the past year.

But following a tougher approach to investigating domestic abuse cases, the number of such incidents in Edinburgh which resulted in a crime being recorded rose by 138 per cent from 1901 to 4500.

Sir Stephen said: “It is not about figures. These policies are making a huge difference to the victims of domestic abuse, who now know that we are going to do something about it and take their attackers to court.

“This is the best policy as far as we are concerned. It wasn’t just a Strathclyde policy. Actually a number of forces were doing the right thing. Now the whole country has got the policy right.”

Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, welcomed the greater emphasis on investigating domestic abuse crimes. She said: “No matter where a woman lives, she should have the same level of protection.”

Sir Stephen insisted there was no “Strathclydisation”. But he said some of the tactics he used in Strathclyde had been rolled out across the country and were delivering results.

And he defended Police Scotland’s controversial approach on Edinburgh’s saunas which saw a series of raids last summer and led to the city council abandoning its policy of licensing saunas.

Sir Stephen said licensing policy was a matter for the city. “What we do, regardless of their policy, is keep women who work in saunas safe,” he said. “What we did during that operation was based on criminal warrants. There would be public outcry if we said we know there is criminality going on in there and the Crown have got warrants but we are not going to go inside and execute them because that does not fit with our understanding of the policy. That would be a dereliction of duty.”

Mike Bridgman, convener of the city council’s police and fire scrutiny committee, defended the record of the former force.

He said: “Lothian and Borders was renowned as one of the best forces in Scotland. They took a lot of the best practice from Lothian and Borders into the new force, as well as a lot of top officers.

“Lothian and Borders’ statistical information was there for the previous police board to see and they dealt with it as they saw fit.”