The Lord Advocate has confirmed that domestic abuse cases will continue to be prosecuted vigorously and fairly during the coronavirus pandemic.
This comes one year after the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which criminalised coercive and controlling behaviour towards a partner or ex-partner, and enabled prosecution to proceed on a charge of a course of abusive behaviour which can include physical, sexual, verbal, financial and psychological abuse.
The legislation also recognised the harmful impact of domestic abuse on children, providing a mechanism for this to be recorded and reflected by the court in sentencing following a conviction.
The Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, said:
“Our commitment to tackling domestic abuse remains firm, especially during this unprecedented time.
“With the public following government advice to stay at home in order to restrict the spread of coronavirus, we know that those experiencing domestic abuse may be more at risk.
“I want to reassure victims that public safety remains the priority for law enforcement during this period. It is vital that victims have the confidence in the justice system to report these crimes and also that they seek support from the many organisations which continue to provide essential services to victims.
“Prosecutors will continue to use all the tools at their disposal to prosecute domestic abuse, including the ground-breaking legislation which was introduced last year. I would strongly encourage anyone who has been a victim of such offending to report this to the police and to seek support.”
Procurator Fiscal for Domestic Abuse, Anne Marie Hicks, said:
“COPFS takes a rigorous approach to crimes of domestic abuse and we are committed to prosecuting these crimes effectively.
“The new offence, introduced in April last year, takes account of the dynamics of abusive relationships and has allowed us to prosecute many coercive and controlling behaviours which can be so harmful to victims, but which were previously not criminal.
“Courts are now able to consider abusive courses of behaviour over a period of time, rather than just focussing on individual incidents. This better reflects the experiences of victims and children, and allows the totality of behaviour to be considered when sentencing.
“Prosecutors in Scotland have undergone extensive training on the legislation, and we will continue to work closely with Police Scotland and victim support agencies, to ensure that the prosecution of domestic abuse is as effective as possible and that victims are supported.
“In the eleven months since the implementation of the Act, we have prosecuted 829 cases and we will see many more coming through the court system in the months and years to come.”