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Abusers set free to harm partners again

MEN arrested for hitting their partners are routinely being released the next day in a system the authorities admit puts women at further risk of abuse.

New figures show one-quarter of those taken into custody for domestic violence are allowed home the following morning with no conditions on their behaviour – counter to an official zero-tolerance approach.

Experts said there had been cases of those accused going straight home and beating their partners again.

Police and other agencies are now looking at ways to change the current guidelines in a bid to protect victims who are being left exposed to danger.

Lily Greenan, head of Scottish Women's Aid, said: "There have been cases where an accused has been released the next day and gone on to beat up his partner immediately. You need a lot of evidence to take someone into custody – including demonstrating that the likelihood of another offence is high.

"There is an expectation that if the police are called then something definitive will happen. Sadly, women are most at risk when they start trying to stand up for themselves. We need to do more to mitigate the risks."

Despite the expectation that no perpetrator would be allowed to go back to a victim who has just accused them, 24% of those held overnight are released the next morning as their cases are marked "no proceedings".

A study by Strathclyde Police found that, over a three-week period, 150 accused were taken into police custody overnight, but one-quarter were released the next day by fiscals due to a lack of evidence.

Police, the Crown Office and support and advocacy agencies are now working to revise the guidelines to tackle the risks posed by abusers.

Deputy Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan, of Strathclyde Police, said: "Reoffending rates for domestic abuse are 60% to 62%. We want to tackle reoffending and change behaviour.

"It's not the fault of fiscals or the courts. It's just that the threshold for evidence has not been fulfilled. I think arresting people then releasing them into the same environment with no control measures is making the situation worse rather than better.

"We need to work on a suite of options – including ways to tackle alcohol misuse and aggression."

There are more than 50,000 domestic abuse incidents across Scotland each year and roughly 10% of victims are male. The Scottish Government's Crime and Justice Survey in 2010 found 30% of people who had been abused did not tell anybody.

Police and victim support groups said repeat offenders were able to use the system to avoid prosecution.

Strathclyde Chief Superintendent Bob Hamilton said: "Those offenders who have been through the system more than once know how to reduce the impact on themselves.

"Saying they were hit first clouds the charges. We are working on identifying the principal aggressor. That is why we need to look at the whole picture."

Discussions are ongoing with the Crown to "refresh and strengthen" police bail conditions, Mr Hamilton added.

Mhairi McGowan, head of service for Assist, the expert advocacy and support service for victims of domestic abuse, said: "Everyone does their best to ensure the victim knows the abuser is being released.

"But when all the agencies are done with a situation where there has been a liberation, the victim is left on her own and there's nothing to stop the abuser coming back to the house."

The Solicitor General, Lesley Thomson, QC, said a network of dedicated domestic abuse prosecutors appeared on behalf of the Crown in specialist domestic abuse courts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Livingston, Dunfermline and Ayr.

She added: "The nature of domestic abuse is that it often occurs in the home or in private where the only witness is the victim. We know the pattern of violence used is controlled and controlling, and abusers will often wait until they are alone with their victim, or when the only witnesses are young children.

"The current requirement for corroboration means many of the accused who are reported to the Procurator Fiscal cannot be prosecuted.

"Removing the requirement for corroboration in Scotland would be a significant step forward in terms of the prosecution of domestic abuse cases, and would allow more cases to reach the courts."

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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