DO­MES­TIC ABUSE RECORD IS WORST IN COUN­TRY

Shock fig­ures re­veal num­ber of in­ci­dents reach­ing hor­rific level

Lennox Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Jenny Foulds

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

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