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Number of domestic abuse charges reported to prosecutors falls

The latest figures on domestic abuse related charges have been published (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The latest figures on domestic abuse related charges have been published (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The number of domestic abuse related charges reported to prosecutors fell slightly last year, though they were at their second highest level in six years, figures show.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) data showed that in 2021-22, 32,776 charges with a domestic abuse identifier were reported to it.

This was 1.9% down on the 2020-21 total of 33,425 but was the second highest number of charges reported since 2015-16.

The most common types of domestic abuse-related offences reported to COPFS in 2021-22 include threatening and abusive behaviour (28%) and assault (25%).

Dorothy Bain KC
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC said prosecutors are committed to supporting victims of domestic abuse (Jane Barlow/PA)

There were 12 murder or culpable homicide charges with a domestic abuse identifier, a further 564 serious assault or attempted murder charges and 682 rape or attempted rape charges.

In 2021-22 a total of 1010 stalking charges were reported to COPFS, of which 57% were identified as domestic abuse related.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC has renewed her pledge to tackle domestic abuse and stalking with robust prosecution of offenders.

She said: “Domestic abuse is an invidious and serious crime, where victims live in fear where they should feel the safest – in their homes and in their relationships. It is also clear that children are profoundly affected by the impact of abuse on a parent.

“The pandemic has an ongoing impact on the criminal justice system but we remain committed to supporting victims through it, recognising the trauma many will have experienced already and the courage it can take to report their experiences.

“All staff within COPFS have worked extremely hard over the past year to prepare and prosecute charges of domestic abuse as swiftly and effectively as possible and we are determined to continue to do so.

“Scottish prosecutors understand that effective enforcement and prosecution is crucial to the wider prevention work of our justice partners; to building safer lives for victims and children; and to delivering a safer society for all.”

In 2021-22, 1,790 charges were reported under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 which came into force on April 1 2019, creating a new statutory offence of engaging in a course of behaviour which is abusive of a partner or ex-partner.

This accounted for 5.5% of all domestic abuse charges reported and was an increase of 13% on the 2020-21 total of 1,581 (4.7% of all domestic abuse charges reported in that year).

The Crown Office said that the vast majority of charges identified as being related to domestic abuse are prosecuted.

An initial decision was made to proceed to court with 93% of charges in 2021-22, however, the publication does not include information on convictions or conviction rates as many of the charges reported in 2021-22 will not yet have reached conviction stage.

Moira Price, COPFS national Procurator Fiscal for Domestic Abuse, said: “As these new figures are published, I would like to assure all victims of our continued determination to achieve justice on their behalf.

“We will work closely with our counterparts at Police Scotland to investigate and prosecute the range of offences that constitute domestic abuse.

“I would emphasise that our rigorous approach to crimes of domestic abuse and stalking includes a presumption in favour of prosecution, where there is sufficient evidence to support a criminal allegation.

“I would encourage anyone who has been the victim of such offending to report it to the police and seek support.”

The figures relate to the number of charges rather than the number of individuals charged or the number of incidents that gave rise to such charges.