POLICE are failing to record the gender of domestic abuse victims in thousands of cases, leading to fears that high-profile attempts to tackle the issue may be stifled.

It has emerged that in 2014/15, the gender of 13 per cent of domestic abuse victims was recorded as 'missing' on databases, with the issue getting worse in recent years, rising from five per cent in 2012/13 before the centralised Police Scotland force came into being.

In almost one-fifth of cases in the last financial year, the force did not know the gender of one of either the victim or the perpetrator.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, whose party obtained the statistics, said it was vital that an accurate picture of domestic abuse was built up so that it could be combated effectively.

She added: "Domestic violence is no respecter of age, class, gender or sexuality. If we are to properly tackle it in our communities, we need to know who the victims and perpetrators are.

"We know there is a hidden issue of domestic violence in same sex relationships, as well as violence by women against men. All victims need to feel confident in their ability to come forward.

"Domestic abuse is a serious problem in Scotland and it’s vital we have an accurate picture of what’s happening to help develop a targeted response.

"It is incredible that Police Scotland, in a crime like domestic abuse, doesn’t even know something as fundamental as the gender of thousands of victims."

Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan, head of Police Scotland's Licensing and Violence Reduction Unit, said that tackling domestic violence was a priority for the force. More incidents had been reported in 2014/15, he said, with detection rates at more than 82 per cent.

He added: "Police Scotland continue to work with partner agencies across the country to ensure that victims receive the highest quality of service throughout the criminal justice process and beyond.

"We do record and classify domestic abuse incidents by the sex of the victim. Data collection is no reflection on the level of investigation or the quality of service provided to victims or witnesses."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The information missing from the domestic abuse publication is a data issue and does not affect the investigation of any individual cases.

"The Scottish Government is working with Police Scotland with the aim to minimise the quantity of missing data."