More than 10,000 domestic abuse incidents reported in Lothians last year

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MORE than 10,000 incidents of domestic abuse were reported to Lothian and Borders Police last year as the number of victims coming forward reached record levels.

New figures released yesterday by the Scottish Government showed that 10,185 incidents were recorded between April last year and March.

With more than one victim alerting police every hour, the number of reports is believed to be the highest on record for the force.

Abuse counsellors said that they hoped the statistics showed a growing “willingness” for victims to break their silence.

But the force was also criticised for an “especially low” percentage of incidents being reported to the procurator fiscal as a crime.

In 2010-11, the figures showed that 71 per cent were reported to the fiscal in Lothian and Borders, the third lowest among the eight Scottish forces.

Police chiefs said that the force took domestic violence “extremely seriously”, adding that any incident where officers found grounds for prosecution is passed to the Crown.

Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) researcher Dr Cheryl Stewart said that the increase in reports of domestic abuse was “alarming”.

She added: “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 an increase in demand for their services.

“We are concerned that so few reports are being recorded as a crime, and would welcome further analysis as to why this is happening – levels of recording are especially low in Lothian and Borders. Seeing how this compares to recording of other types of crime would help to show whether domestic abuse is being treated as a priority in the area.”

Gavin Brown, Lothians Tory MSP, said: “Domestic abuse is abhorrent and we have to do everything in our power to prevent it, and deal robustly with the perpetrators.”

In Edinburgh, the number of recorded domestic abuse incidents in 2011-12 was 5287, a slight rise on the previous year but down on the 5784 recorded by police in 2006-7.

The volume of incidents last year in East Lothian was 929, with 1036 in Midlothian and 2132 in West Lothian.

A police spokesman said: “Domestic abuse is an issue that the force takes extremely seriously, and we are committed to robust enforcement.

“We fully investigate all reports of domestic abuse and where we believe there are grounds for prosecution we will submit a report to the procurator fiscal.

“In addition to year-round enforcement, a number of campaigns have been launched across the force area, which reinforces our work.”

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “These figures show that too many men and women are being subjected to abuse at home. That is why the Scottish Government has committed £34 million to tackling domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women over the next three years.”

In February, a pilot scheme saw a dedicated court set up at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to deal with all domestic abuse prosecutions from the south and east of the city.