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Thousands of domestic violence cases ignored

SCOTLAND'S top policeman has revealed figures that show thousands of domestic violence cases in and around the capital were being ignored until the country's new single force was created a year ago.

SIR STEPHEN HOUSE: He said creating a national force had brought him the hardest year of his career. Picture: Steve Cox
SIR STEPHEN HOUSE: He said creating a national force had brought him the hardest year of his career. Picture: Steve Cox

Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House said the crime recorded in Lothian and Borders had more than doubled since the old force was abolished last April.

Sir Stephen made his most robust defence yet of national policing amid growing political concerns of what some people have called "Strathclyde-isation."

There are suggestions Glasgow tactics are being imposed across Scotland and concern has been raised by civil liberties groups over the increasing numbers of police stop and searches.

A report revealed 500,000 people in Scotland had been subject to the tactic in the first nine months of the force.

Sir Stephen stressed domestic abuse crime figures in the former Strathclyde Police force area, where he was Chief Constable, the Central Belt and Grampian had barely changed over the past year.

His comments imply the former forces in those areas had been getting policy "right" but the old Edinburgh-based force area had not.

Sir Stephen maintained his tough policies on domestic abuse, in which officers investigate crimes stemming from "incidents", meant victims now got the same protection wherever they live.

He said: "This is the best policy as far as we are concerned. It was not just a Strathclyde policy. The policy in Central Scotland Police was the same. We have not seen much change in its figures. Same with Grampian, not a massive change.

"A number of forces were doing the right thing. Now the whole country has got the policy right."

The number of domestic incidents, 999 and other call-outs attended by officers in Edinburgh has dipped from 5400 in 2012-13 to 5266 in 2013-14, according to preliminary year-to-date figures.

The number of those incidents that result in a crime being recorded, from rape and attempted murder to common assaults, has risen 138% from just 1901 to 4500.

In the Lothian and Borders division, which surrounds but does not include Edinburgh, there have also been about 5000 domestic incidents so far this year, up 2.3%%. The number of crimes recorded is up from 1606 to 3699.

The number of crimes found during domestic investigations in the capital is so great that it has helped to inflate preliminary statistics for common assaults, the most frequently reported violent crime, by nearly 17%.

Sir Stephen has already said vigilance by domestic abuse investigators has increased nationwide reporting of rapes this year, helping to drive figures up by a third.

Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, welcomed the new numbers of domestic abuse crimes recorded in Edinburgh. "No matter where a woman lives they should have the same level of protection," she said

Sir Stephen, meanwhile, said he was happy to take best practice from wherever it came and had "Lothianised" complaints procedures for the whole of Scotland.

He disclosed that "creating a national police force fit for a western democracy" had brought the hardest year of his career and admitted the new force's messaging, including on sensitive to local policing issues, had occasionally been "clumsy".

Sir Stephen also revealed that contacts were under way with UK colleagues on how key issues, such as intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism, would operate should Scots vote for independence in what he expects to be a "passionate but peaceful" vote.

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