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Crown and police revise domestic abuse protocol

24 March 2017

An expanded definition of domestic abuse, but also an additional emphasis on the need for sufficient evidence, are contained in a revised joint protocol released today by the prosecution service and Police Scotland.

Launched by Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC and Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams, the new Joint Protocol on Domestic Abuse commits Police Scotland and the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service to a "consistent and robust approach" to domestic abuse and recognises the significant and enduring impact domestic abuse can have on victims and children.

Under the revised version of the protocol, which was consulted on widely with campaigners against domestic abuse and victims' groups:

  • The role of children will be more visible in the investigation and prosecution process.
  • The new definition of domestic abuse, which reflects increased understanding of the crime, recognises that domestic abuse may take many forms and involve a course of conduct rather than a single incident.
  • Additional guidance is given on the reporting of counter allegations to reduce the fear by victims that they could be arrested.
  • A strong emphasis is placed on the need for a sufficiency of evidence before action can be taken by prosecutors.
  • Guidance is given on the circumstances in which an accused person may be released on an undertaking to appear at court.

Mr Wolffe commented: "The joint protocol reflects the continuing commitment of police and prosecutors to addressing domestic abuse effectively and rigorously.

“This week we have seen the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, which breaks new ground in its understanding of domestic abuse and the consequences it can have on victims and children. The bill recognises that domestic abuse may involve a course of conduct rather than a single incident or isolated incidents. It also recognises that abuse can take many forms including non-violent coercive control which can undermine the victim’s dignity and humanity.

“This progressive offence recognises that domestic abuse is about more than physical harm. Domestic abuse can break a victim’s spirit and restrict victims’ freedom and ability to live their life as they choose. The updated protocol put in place by police and prosecutors will ensure that we continue to maintain a consistent investigative and enforcement approach to this particular form of criminality.”

The assistant chief constable added that the protocol highlighted "the absolute commitment of Police Scotland and prosecutors to work together and to do everything possible to bring those responsible for domestic abuse to justice", while also recognising the complexity of abuse and how it manifests itself in many ways.

Click here to view the protocol.

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