Police Scotland received eight reports alleging domestic abuse by serving officers in the year after they first started recording complaints – but no-one has been convicted of a crime.

Of the eight allegations, received by the force between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, four criminal cases remain live. Five of the complaints are still being investigated by Police Scotland regarding alleged misconduct by officers, and these internal investigations continue despite officers being cleared in court.

The figures were provided by Police Scotland in reply to freedom of information (FoI) request, prompting one charity supporting victims of domestic violence to claim the figures were “likely to be the tip of the iceberg”.

Four of the complaints against officers alleged assault. Two of those were found not guilty in court but one is subject to internal “improvement action” and the other is still being investigated by the force for misconduct. The other two are subject to criminal charges and due to appear in court.

A civilian working for the force was also the subject of a complaint alleging domestic abuse, but a criminal case did not proceed and a disciplinary case did not progress to a hearing.

Police Scotland also said that its domestic abuse standard operating procedure is currently under review and going through mandatory consultation.

Police accused of 185 sexual assaults in five years

The FoI request was submitted by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, with whom The Ferret works closely.

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said that support services across Scotland for victims of abuse had advised that women, children and young people had experienced domestic abuse “from perpetrators who are police officers”.

“With one in four women experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetimes and one in four men perpetrating, there is no profession or job role void of abusers. The men carrying out this abuse look just like any others and are well skilled in hiding their coercive control from those outside the family,” Scott said.

She thought that the figure reported is likely to be “the tip of the iceberg”. With Scotland’s new “gold-standard” domestic abuse law now in place, the responsibility was on everyone to create policies and procedures in workplaces to identify and respond to domestic abuse, she argued

“Domestic abuse is deliberately isolating and for those whose partner or ex-partner holds a position of power or authority within the community, this feeling of isolation and worry about what could happen if you speak out can be exacerbated,” she added.

“Scotland’s domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline is available 24/7, in complete confidence, to support anyone experiencing domestic abuse. Specially trained staff can offer expert advice on safety planning and refer callers to sources of help appropriate to their particular circumstances. The helpline is available on 0800 027 1234.”

The fact that Police Scotland were recording allegations was welcomed by Scott who said that Women’s Aid would continue to work with the force on its approach to domestic abuse.

Each of these cases is an abuse of power, which we sadly see all too often... They are cases of men abusing their power over women, and of professionals abusing their power to make it harder for women to seek help. Lily Greenan, Zero Tolerance

Lily Greenan, deputy director of the campaign group,  Zero Tolerance, argued that Police Scotland had a responsibility to put in place “robust processes” to support victims who have been abused by police officers to come forward.

“Each of these cases is an abuse of power, which we sadly see all too often,” Greenan said. “They are cases of men abusing their power over women, and of professionals abusing their power to make it harder for women to seek help.”

She added: “It is very hard for survivors to come forward as they are worried that they will not be believed. Everyone must play their role in changing the culture so violence like this is prevented before it happens.”

Detective Superintendent Gordon McCreadie, Police Scotland’s national lead for domestic abuse, said: “We take all reports of domestic abuse seriously and our officers are trained to investigate each incident fully, regardless of the identity of the suspect.

“We continue to promote a workplace culture in which there is no tolerance for domestic abuse and specific guidance is in place on how to respond to reports involving police officers or staff as victims or perpetrators. Any internal conduct proceedings are also conducted thoroughly and separately from criminal proceedings.

“Our officers offer a consistent level of support to all victims and will signpost them to a range of victim support and advocacy services based on their personal needs. We undertake a considerable amount of work to support employees who may be victims of domestic abuse, including recently launching an internal campaign to ensure staff and officers know how to report concerns or seek advice.”

In May The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that police officers and staff across the UK were reported for alleged domestic abuse almost 700 times in the three years up to April 2018, more than four times a week on average. The real figure is likely to be much higher, the bureau said, as data was only provided by 37 of the UK’s 48 police forces.

In 2016 The Ferret reported that in Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2015, the Police Ombudsman’s office was aware of 185 allegations of sexual assault associated with 186 officers and civilian employees.

It was reported last month that a police officer is to stand trial charged with raping a woman in a Dumfries street.

Freedom of information responses from Police Scotland

This article was published in partnership with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

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