Freedom of Information - Domestic Abuse Figures
Thank you for your email of 28 May 2013, in which you requested the information below for the financial years 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13 across Scotland under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002:
1. The number of cases reported to the Procurator Fiscal which had a domestic abuse element. Out of these can you provide a breakdown of the categories of the alleged offences - breach of peace, assault, etc.
2. Of those cases, please provide a breakdown of what action was taken, i.e fiscal fine, prosecution etc
3. Can you also detail what cases passed to the Crown were not pursued and how many were marked ‘No Action’
I am sorry for the delay in providing this response which, as I explained to you when we spoke on the telephone, was caused by the significant amount of work which required to be done in order to provide you with the information you sought.
As I explained over the telephone, although we do endeavour to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600. This is because our case management system is a live, operating database. It is designed to meet COPFS’ business needs in relation to the processing of criminal cases, and the information within it is structured accordingly. We do not have a separate statistical database, and hold only operational data needed for business purposes.
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.
We have, however, prepared the data which you requested for financial years 2012/2013 and 2011/2012. It remains necessary, however, to caveat this information by reiterating that it is not ingathered by COPFS for statistical purposes. Although all efforts have been made to provide you with accurate information, the accuracy depends on a number of factors, including whether police and Procurators Fiscal have correctly identified a particular charge (as opposed to case) as relating to domestic abuse. The information has been provided by charge broken down by category of offence, rather than cases broken down by category of offence as requested, as it is not possible to extract the information sought by case due to the way in which information is structured in our case management system. Where an individual charge has not been progressed because, for example, the behaviour complained of has been included in the narrative of another charge for the purposes of any action taken, information about the original charge is not included in the attached table
In interpreting the information we have provided, it might be helpful if I provide some further information about the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) response to domestic abuse.
COPFS recognises the devastating impact that domestic abuse has on those who are subjected to it. COPFS and the Police Service of Scotland have a wide definition of crimes identified as domestic abuse, which is set out in our published Joint Protocol, “In Partnership, Challenging Domestic Abuse”. The definition set out in the protocol is “any form of physical, sexual or mental and emotional abuse which might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of relationship. The relationship will be between partners (married, cohabiting, civil partnerships or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse can be committed in the home or elsewhere”. A copy of the joint protocol is attached for your ease of reference.
All crimes falling within this definition of domestic abuse will be considered by COPFS in the context of the commitments set out in the Joint Protocol. This includes a presumption in favour of court proceedings in relation to offences involving violence and a presumption that such proceedings will take place at a minimum of sheriff court level. As you will note from the figures which have been released, the vast majority of instances of domestic abuse which are reported to COPFS result in court proceedings.
In addition to the presumption contained within the protocol, other factors will also require to be taken into account and these are set out in our published Prosecution Code, which can be viewed at the link below. These factors may, occasionally require a departure from the presumptions set out in the protocol
COPFS is presently working closely with the Police Service of Scotland to ensure that the joint protocol continues to inform the best response to all allegations of domestic abuse. It is recognised that counter allegations in the context of domestic abuse cases present particular challenges for both the police and prosecutors and that the response to such allegations needs to take into account the dynamics of domestic abuse. For example, where a counter allegation has been made against a female who also presents as a victim of domestic abuse, a sensitive and holistic approach which takes fully into account any alleged background of offending by either party is necessary.