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First meeting of multi-agency domestic abuse initiative for the East of Scotland

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and Police Scotland have today brought together representatives from a number of agencies in the East of Scotland as part of an Equalities Network initiative to build awareness and confidence in reporting domestic abuse across diverse communities, with a particular focus on women from minority ethnic communities, to make them aware of their rights and how the criminal justice system and other agencies can assist them.

We recognise that victims of domestic abuse can face a variety of obstacles which make it difficult for them to come forward and report abuse, and that victims who are members of minority ethnic communities may also have additional vulnerabilities. For example, they may have limited English, they may feel isolated and lack support networks, they may not know the law in Scotland and how seriously we take domestic abuse1. They may also have had negative experiences in the past which lead them to lack confidence in the authorities, and they may not be aware of the agencies that can offer support and how to access them.

Lynne Barrie, a member of the COPFS’s Equalities Network said:

“We want to remove any obstacles we can and encourage victims of domestic abuse to come forward and report it, ideally to the police, but also to other agencies that can offer support.

“Our aim is to target the individuals and communities that need it most, to raise awareness of the resources that are available, and to ensure people feel confident enough to come forward and access appropriate support.”

The project will incorporate input from various different departments and third sector organisations who work with victims and minority ethnic communities, to provide comprehensive information about the resources available and how to access them. The purpose is to break down any barriers which may exist and to gain the confidence of these communities. Ultimately, we want to encourage victims to come forward to report domestic abuse and access appropriate support, safe in the knowledge that they will be treated with respect and will receive a high quality service that meets their needs.

To ensure we address victims’ concerns and needs, we would like to involve affected communities and individuals in the project. Our objective is for the initiative to support agencies in their work with victims and communities.

Anne Marie Hicks, National Prosecutor for Domestic Abuse, speaking at the meeting today, praised the initiative by the Equalities Network.

During her speech Anne Marie highlighting that domestic abuse is a major equality issue with over 80% of charges reported2 to prosecutors involving a female victim and said:

“Preventing violence against women and girls has been a significant priority for the Crown for a number of years and robust and effective enforcement and prosecution for this type of offending is critical.

“We recognise that it can be challenging for victims to report abuse and seek help. For victims from minority ethnic communities there can sometimes be additional challenges due to language, immigration or cultural issues.

“We are committed to working with the police and other partners in agencies across Scotland to ensure that victims from all communities get the support and help they need and have the confidence to report crimes of domestic abuse.”

At today’s initial meeting representatives from the Crown, Police Scotland and Scottish Government provided an overview of recent developments in the work being done to combat domestic abuse.

This was followed by an interactive workshop session involving attendees from Edinburgh Women’s Aid, EDACS (Edinburgh Domestic Abuse Court Support and Advocacy Service), Shakti Women’s Aid, Saheliya, Streetwork Women’s Project, Respekt Equality and Rights Network (EaRN), Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council (EVOC), Couple Counselling Lothian (Relationships Scotland), Social Work Department, NHS Lothian, Housing Department and Edinburgh Napier University, Student Development & Wellbeing.

1. COPFS defines domestic abuse as ‘any form of physical, sexual or mental and emotional abuse which might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of a relationship. The relationship will be between partners (married, cohabiting, civil partnership or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse can be committed in the home or elsewhere.

2. 36,667 charges involving an element of domestic abuse reported in 2014-2015