Domestic Abuse cases (R012172)
Thank you for your e-mail of 22 January 2016 in which you requested the following information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA):
“… if there is a community resolution crime disposal or detection code equivalent in Scotland? I see, for example, that SACRO provide community mediations, and take referrals from both the PF and Police Scotland – which sounds similar to CR. Although I am not clear if Police Scotland/the PF’s Office can additionally administer RJ/CR outcomes without the involvement of SACRO?
- Where would the best place be for me to submit an FOI trying to establish the number of domestic abuse incidents that have been responded to using RJ/CR?
I have attached the FOI requests we have used for other police forces in the UK to give you an idea of what we want to ask, although I appreciate that Police Scotland’s force area is so large that aspects of the information (e.g. Q3) might need to be omitted, if case numbers are too high. Additionally, the date parameters might have to be changed, with the unification of the Police Scotland only taking place in April 2014.”
You also attached forms in which you describe the information you wish to receive.
You have advised that you were referred to COPFS by Police Scotland. I should explain firstly that COPFS are only able to provide you with data relating to domestic abuse cases reported to us by Police Scotland. You may wish to refer back to Police Scotland for information on how they have dealt with any cases not reported to COPFS.
You may also find it helpful to refer to the Scottish Government publication "Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in 2013-14 & 2014-15" which is accessible on the Scottish Government website and I attach a link to this document for ease: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0048/00487981.pdf
Additionally, you can refer to the “Joint Protocol between Police Scotland and COPFS” document which was established to ensure consistency in the investigation and prosecution of domestic abuse cases:
Joint Protocol between Police Scotland and Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
In relation to your request you may wish to note that the definition of domestic abuse used in Scotland refers to partners and ex partners and does not include other inter familial abuse. In addition where there is a sufficiency of evidence that a crime involving domestic abuse has occurred there is an instruction that the police should report this to COPFS.
In relation to your request, I can advise that COPFS uses a live operational case management system, specifically designed to receive criminal and death reports from the police and other specialist reporting agencies and to manage the cases for investigation and prosecution purposes. The information held on the system is structured for these operational needs, rather than for statistical reporting or research purposes. Due to the way the data is structured on our system, where we are asked to provide statistical information, we provide this by number of charges rather than number of reports and by financial year rather than calendar year. A case report may involve more than one charge.
We collate statistical information about domestic abuse charges by undertaking an electronic search of our systems. Charges involving domestic abuse are normally identified by an electronic marker, and it is charges with this marker that are collated to form the statistical information that we provide about domestic abuse. Electronic domestic abuse markers are normally added by the police to appropriate charges. However, it is ultimately the decision of the Procurator Fiscal whether a charge falls within the definition of domestic abuse, and domestic abuse markers can be added or removed by the Procurator Fiscal. There may be a small number of charges processed by COPFS where domestic abuse markers ought to have been added but have not either by the police or the Procurator Fiscal. You should be aware that the data we have provided is based on charges with an initial direct measures marking. It may be the case that the direct measure was unsuccessful and the matter reconsidered which resulted at a later date in a different disposal.
In responding to your request, I have referred to the points numbered in the forms you submitted with your email, which outline the information you would like to receive and I have tried to answer these points where I can. Where you have indicated “recorded”, I have interpreted this as “reported” for the purposes of our response, as Police Scotland report cases to COPFS. As already indicated above, the statistical data we can collate from our system is based on financial year and not calendar year.
Q: Point (1) in form:
A: The number of domestic abuse charges reported to COPFS during financial years 2013/14 and 2014/15 is already published on our website at http://copfs.gov.uk/publications/statistics.
Q: Point and table (2) in form
A: The definitions which you have given in relation to Restorative Justice and Community resolution are not definitions used in Scotland. In Scotland Direct Measures are available to COPFS as alternatives to court proceedings. Information explaining more details about the different types of direct measures available can be found on the COPFS website at http://www.crownoffice.gov.uk/about-us/what-we-do/10-about-us/297-alternative-to-prosecution.
Having conducted enquiries regarding your request, the specific details you have requested in relation to each charge are not recorded in our database in a way which can be electronically searched. It would therefore require a manual search of all the electronic case reportsto identify the specific details you have requested. Under section 12 of FOISA, public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12. A manual search of the relevant cases from financial years 2013/14 and 2014/15 would exceed the upper cost limit to perform.
I am however able to provide some details of the charges reported during financial year 2014/15 only within our cost limits as it covers the majority of the period of your request.
The total domestic abuse charges reported to COPFS by Police Scotland over financial year 2014/15 where we considered that direct measures were appropriate were 733 charges.
Q: Point and table (3) on form:
- Reference number: I consider that the COPFS case reference numbers are exempt from release under section 38(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA). This exemption applies because this information could be used to identify individual cases which would lead to identification of individuals. This would amount to the personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 1998. This is an absolute exemption and is not subject to the public interest test.
- Offence type: Examples include vandalism; assault; stalking; threatening or abusive behaviour; use of electronic communications to annoy or cause anxiety; use of electronic communications to send indecent/obscene/menacing messages; breach of the peace; assault to injury; culpable and reckless conduct.
- Relationship between victim and perpetrator
- Gender of the victim
- Gender of the perpetrator
Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12. The information held on our system is structured for operational needs, rather than for statistical reporting or research purposes. We would be unable to provide you with accurate data to answer this aspect of your request within our upper cost limits, however I note that the "Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in 2013-14 & 2014-15" report I referred to above contains this level of detailed information which you may find of interest.
Some court disposals may include a restorative option but this information is not held by COPFS and it is open to you to contact the Scottish Government for statistical data involving court disposals. Contact details are provided below.
You have specifically asked about the role of SACRO (the Scottish Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders). I attach a link to their website which explains SACRO's role in relation to the criminal justice system:
Adult Restorative Justice
SACRO are a voluntary organisation and it is open to you to contact them direct for statistical information using the contact details on their website. Statistical information relating to the Local Authority Criminal Justice Social Work Service is collated by the Scottish Government and you may contact to them using the contact details on their website at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/statcontacts