DOMESTIC ABUSE RECORD IS WORST IN COUNTRY
Shock figures reveal number of incidents reaching horrific level
West Dunbartonshire has the worst record for domestic abuse in the country.
A higher proportion of victims suffer lifechanging torment at the hands of a partner than anywhere else in Scotland.
The words “shocking”, “shameful” and “sad” have been used to describe the terrifying trend, but those fighting for justice say it shows more are being empowered to speak out.
DCI Graham Cordner, who leads the public protection unit, said that as well as working with victims, specialist officers are gathering intelligence on abusers. He added: “While acknowledging the figures place us as the worst in Scotland in terms of the number of reported incidents, it is positive that people are having the confidence to report these crimes.”
But the harsh reality means local victim support organisations are working to capacity as they help abused victims and displaced children rebuild their lives.
Tragically, it is feared it might take more than 10 years to reverse the harrowing pattern.
Shocking new figures reveal West Dunbartonshire has the worst record of domestic abuse in Scotland West Dunbartonshire now has the worst domestic abuse record in Scotland.
People living here are more likely to fall victim to abuse than any other council area in the country - with 707 recorded incidents in the past year.
The worrying statistics come 12 months after the area was branded the second worst.
But shocking new figures now mean the title has been claimed by West Dunbartonshire, with the area recording the highest number of crimes per head of the population during 2016/17 than any other local authority area in Scotland.
And a report, which goes to West Dunbartonshire Council this week, on plans to reduce high figures sadly reveals that a turnaround won’t likely be seen for at least another 10 years.
Liz Gillespie, manager at Dumbarton District Women’s Aid, said she was saddened by the figures and said there was much work to be done to rid the area of its unenviable marker.
Despite praising the actions of police and partner organisations which are working together to address the huge local issue, she doesn’t feel the situation will improve or be solved anytime soon.
She said: “We have seen an increase in requests for our outreach programme, which supports female victims and we haven’t seen a reduction in the number of refuge referrals.
“Things are moving in the right direction in that there is a lot of work being done. The response from police is better than it used to be and a lot of work is based around preventative measures, which we believe is key.
“We will be starting a pilot programme in January next year and going into schools to speak to young people to reach them early and educate them on healthy relationships.”
The report prepared by Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendren which goes to West Dunbartonshire Council’s community planning meeting on Thursday, breaks down the figures.
It states there has been a slight improvement of 17 fewer domestic abuse crimes according to figures recorded at the end of quarter two of this year - but that incidents have increased from 674 to 707 over the past 12 months.
It reads: “Recent statistics show West Dunbartonshire local authority area recorded the higher number of crimes per head of the population during 2016/17 than any other local authority area in Scotland.”
Despite the high number of reported incidents, Liz said the figures are not reflective of the number of domestic abuse incidents taking place, with many, she says, going unreported.
“A lot of women we work with have not reported it and, for the majority, the abuse has been going on for a long time,” she added.
A recent study revealed that on average, a victim of domestic abuse will have been assaulted 35 times before going to police.
DCI Graham Cordner, who leads the public protection unit for the police division, told how it is imperative to empower victims to have the confidence to come forward.
He said: “While acknowledging the figures place us as the worst in Scotland in terms of the number of reported incidents, it is positive that people are having the confidence to
report these crimes.
“Domestic abuse can significantly go under reported and a lot of work has been carried out locally to encourage victims to report it. Other cases, which are being highlighted in the media are also going some way to give people the confidence to speak out.”
Explaining the process in which incidents are investigated, he said: “Every day, there’s a thorough review to make sure each incident has been investigated and recorded in detail and from there, we can investigate any trends and patterns.
“Once we identify the perpetrator, we may also find that his has a number of ex partners who we might think is necessary to speak to. From there, those conversations can result in more crimes being reported.
“We also have a domestic abuse investigation unit and they take on more protracted investigations, which look to target high-risk perpetrators.”
An example he gave was the case of David Millard, from Dumbarton, who terrorised two ex partners for almost a year in a chilling stalking campaign against them. In August, he was jailed for 36 months and was ordered to stay away from the two women for the rest of his life.
DCI Cordner told how the area benefits from a multi-agency approach partnership, to address both prevention and intervention.
Women’s rights campaigner Anni Donaldson, a former development worker at the West Dunbartonshire Violence Against Women Partnership, agreed that the figures could show more women have the confidence to come forward.
She said: “These are shocking figures. On the one hand they are perhaps showing that women are more confident in coming forward and reporting to the police.
“On the other it shows the continued and pressing need for well resourced local support services such as those provided by CARA, and both Women’s Aid groups.”
At the meeting on Thursday, the council will also consider a Director of Public Health Report, on domestic abuse in West Dunbartonshire.
The paper, prepared by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership, states a more “robust and joined up approach” is needed.
But the council’s chief social work officer Jackie Irvine warns: “This is an issue which affects generations of families and therefore requires a radical cultural shift; realistically improvements may take in excess of 10 years.”
The report also highlights an opinion that there is an association between alcohol and domestic abuse.
But Liz Gillespie disagreed: “We would argue that alcohol cannot be used as an excuse.”
The agency representatives we spoke to were all unable to definitively place a reason on why the area is the worst in Scotland.
It is routinely ranked at the bottom of league tables for alcohol and drugs misuse and poverty, which are often mooted as potential reasons, but Liz says domestic abuse can instead be the catalyst for such issues.
“There’s a misconception that domestic abuse can happen to unemployed, single mums when it can happen to people from all walks of life. Women with a roof over their head and a job can find themselves losing everything if they end up in a domestic abuse situation. We also see women turn to alcohol and drugs as a result of their experiences.”
We have seen an increase in requests for our outreach programme, which supports female victims and we haven’t seen a reduction in the number of referrals Liz Gillespie, Dumbarton Women’s Aid
Grim David Millard jailed after pleading guilty to stalking women