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COPFS

Domestic Abuse - 23 June

Freedom of information: Domestic Abuse

Thank you for your request dated 23 June 2014 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for the following information:

1. How many people were prosecuted in Scotland under Section 38 or related domestic violence charges in 2012-13.

2. How many people were prosecuted in Scotland under Section 38 or related domestic violence charges in 2013-14.

3. How many people were prosecuted in the Lothian and Borders Police force area under Section 38 or related domestic violence charges in 2012-13.

4. How many people were prosecuted in the former Lothian and Borders Police force area under Section 38 or related domestic violence charges in 2013-14.

Thank you also for your email of 4 July in which you confirmed that in each of your four requests under FOISA you were seeking separate figures on S38 charges relating to domestic abuse and to other charges relating to domestic abuse, including assaults, whether they appeared alongside S38 charges or not.

We have now completed a search of our systems and I can advise as follows.

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. A case report may involve more than one charge.

Where we gather statistical information about domestic abuse charges, we do this 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. There may also be a small number of charges where domestic abuse markers ought not to have been added but have been, either by the police or the Procurator Fiscal.

1. How many people were prosecuted in Scotland under Section 38 or related domestic violence charges in 2012-13.

We do endeavour to provide information where appropriate, however, under section 25(1) of FOISA, we are not required to provide information in response to a request if it is already reasonably accessible to you. The information you requested in respect of the financial years 2012-13 is contained within the published responses to Freedom of Information Requests available from the COPFS website and I have provided links to this information below:

http://www.copfs.gov.uk/foi/responses-we-have-made-to-foi-requests/704-charges-with-domestic-abuse-aggravation

http://www.copfs.gov.uk/foi/responses-we-have-made-to-foi-requests/650-domestic-abuse-figures

If you do not have access to obtain this information from the website listed, then please contact me again and I will arrange to provide it in hard copy.

2. How many people were prosecuted in Scotland under Section 38 or related domestic violence charges in 2013-14.

We do endeavour to provide information wherever possible, however, with regard to the information requested for the financial year 2013-14, it is our intention to publish this statistical information in the near future and therefore I consider that the exemption under Section 27(1)(a)(i) of FOISA applies. This Section states that information is exempt information if it is held with a view to it being published by a Scottish public authority at a date not later than twelve weeks after that on which the request for information was made. I would expect the information to appear within twelve weeks of the date of your request.

This is not an absolute exemption and accordingly the public interest test must be applied. I consider that there is a strong public interest in not interrupting pre-planned release of statistical information.

3. How many people were prosecuted in the Lothian and Borders Police force area under Section 38 or related domestic violence charges in 2012-13.

As explained, the information that we have been able to provide relates to charges rather than individuals reported.

In the financial year 2012 – 2013 there were 977 charges of contraventions of s38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 which bore a domestic aggravation were reported by the police to the Procurator Fiscal in the former Lothian and Borders police force area and prosecuted.

In the financial year 2012 – 2013 there were 1899 charges other than contraventions of s38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 which bore a domestic aggravation were reported by the police to the Procurator Fiscal in the former Lothian and Borders Police for area and prosecuted.

4. How many people were prosecuted in the former Lothian and Borders Police force area under Section 38 or related domestic violence charges in 2013-14.

We do endeavour to provide information wherever possible, however, with regard to the information requested for the financial year 2013-14, it is our intention to publish this statistical information in the near future and therefore I consider that the exemption under Section 27(1)(a)(i) of FOISA applies. This Section states that information is exempt information if it is held with a view to it being published by a Scottish public authority at a date not later than twelve weeks after that on which the request for information was made. I would expect the information to appear within twelve weeks of the date of your request.

This is not an absolute exemption and accordingly the public interest test must be applied. I consider that there is a strong public interest in not interrupting pre-planned release of statistical information.

COPFS Domestic Abuse Policy

COPFS has a strict prosecution policy in relation to offences that are aggravated by domestic abuse. This includes a presumption in favour or prosecution where there is sufficient credible, reliable, admissible and corroborated evidence to support an allegation of domestic abuse.

Our domestic abuse policies and procedures remain under constant review in order that we can provide the best possible service to the victims of domestic abuse. Over the period for which you have requested data we have continued to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the effective prosecution of offences involving domestic abuse in a number of ways. For example in 2013 we appointed a dedicated Procurator Fiscal for Domestic Abuse, and refined our joint domestic abuse protocol with Police Scotland. We have also continued to utilise dedicated domestic abuse prosecutors, who are specially trained in understanding the dynamics of abusive relationships.