The Lord Advocate has vowed to give renewed focus to efforts by Scotland’s prosecutors to tackle domestic abuse and stalking as the justice system recovers from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dorothy Bain QC made the commitment as new figures show the number of charges reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) related to domestic abuse last year was the highest since 2015-16.
There were 33,425 charges reported in 2020-21, an increase of nine percent on the year before. The vast majority of those cases were prosecuted, with 92 percent proceeding to court.
The most common types of domestic abuse related offences reported last year include threatening and abusive behaviour and assault. There were also 573 serious assault or attempted murder charges reported to the Crown, and 620 charges of rape or attempted rape.
The figures published today cover the period of the first lockdown in March 2020 following the coronavirus outbreak. While the number of charges reported initially remained relatively low, the figures peaked in June and July 2020, with over 3,300 charges per month.
Speaking following the publication, the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC said:
“While the last year has been a challenging one for all of us, for victims of domestic abuse the period of lockdown was particularly difficult and dangerous.
“All staff at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service have worked hard to protect victims during this time by continuing to prepare cases and prosecute offenders where possible.
“The impact of the pandemic on the justice system, particularly the ability to progress criminal trials, has been significant. We have been working with partners across the criminal justice system to respond to the challenges and we will continue to do so, with a focus on ensuring cases progress as efficiently as possible during the pandemic recovery.
“I understand the devastating impact these crimes can have on victims, and the compounding effect of delays and uncertainty. It takes courage and bravery for victims to come forward and report their experiences and I am committed to ensuring those who do are treated with dignity and respect, and are properly supported through the prosecution process.”
National Procurator Fiscal for Domestic Abuse Moira Price said:
“COPFS takes a rigorous approach to crimes of domestic abuse and stalking, and we are committed to prosecuting these crimes effectively and fairly. This includes a presumption in favour of prosecution where there is sufficient evidence to support a criminal allegation.
“Prosecutors works closely with their counterparts in Police Scotland to ensure a joined-up approach of robust enforcement and prosecution.
“Staff at both organisations have undergone extensive training to recognise the range of offences, including coercive and controlling behaviours, that can be prosecuted as domestic abuse.
“I would encourage anyone who has been the victim of such offending to report this to police and seek support.”
A full copy of the publication can be found at Domestic Abuse and Stalking Charges in Scotland 2020-21.pdf (copfs.gov.uk)