Training begins today for Police Scotland officers and staff ahead of the introduction of the new controlling behaviours domestic abuse offence which will come into force in 2019.
More than 14,000 officers and staff will be trained by SafeLives and specialist trainers, to help them recognise and effectively respond to the signs of coercive and controlling behaviours.
The Scottish Government has provided £825,000 to enable the training ahead of the implementation of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 which will come into force in 2019.
Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald, lead for Crime and Protection, Police Scotland, said, “Coercive and controlling behaviours are a significant factor in most, if not all cases, of domestic abuse. Offenders will isolate their victim from family and friends, and will deliberately undermine their confidence and self-esteem in order to establish power and control. Domestic abuse victims have told us that this type of psychological abuse can be as bad as, if not worse, than the physical abuse.
“The training will tackle the many myths and misconceptions around domestic abuse that remain common in our communities across Scotland.
“It will ensure they have a fuller understanding of the dynamics of power and control in abusive relationships and they have the necessary skills to identify, evidence and take action against the people responsible for abusive behaviours – the perpetrators themselves.
“This programme has been designed to deliver a sustainable change, and will be supported by a team of around 1000 domestic abuse ‘champions’ working on the frontline to support officers and staff with the practical application of the legislation. It will also support the continuing improvement in our response and ensure officers and staff are sensitive to the needs of those experiencing domestic abuse.”
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said, “The introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act is an important step towards increasing awareness of the full extent of domestic abuse for victims and those around them. However, legislation is only the first step, and it is vital that we ensure that the justice system is prepared and equipped to deal with cases involving coercive and controlling behaviour. That is why we have supported Police Scotland to develop this training.
“Police officers deal with the damage caused by domestic abuse day in day out, and this training will help to identify some of the more insidious and damaging ways that perpetrators use to control their partner or ex-partner which are covered within the new offence.”
The training programme, Domestic Abuse Matters (Scotland), has been co-developed by Police Scotland and SafeLives, a UK charity committed to ending domestic abuse.
Over the next 18 months, more than 14,000 officers and staff will complete the one day face-to-face training session along with an e-learning package. Almost all of Police Scotland’s officers and staff will complete an e-learning package to enhance their knowledge of the issue.
Every member of Police Scotland’s executive team will also participate in the bespoke training programme.
SafeLives’ has trained experts in supporting and advocating for victims of domestic abuse from across Scotland and they will deliver the training alongside police trainers who are experts in policing domestic abuse.
Suzanne Jacob, CEO of SafeLives, said, “We are delighted to see the roll out of this training across Police Scotland. We know that over 130,000 people in Scotland live with domestic abuse every year and the majority of those will experience controlling and coercive behaviour.
“A common understanding and awareness across Police Scotland of the dynamics of abuse and the tactics used by perpetrators is vital. With this training, the police will be able to see the whole picture for families and victims experiencing harm - helping people become safe sooner, and holding perpetrators to account.
“We’re thankful to our partners ASSIST, the Caledonian System, Sacro and Scottish Borders Safer Communities team for helping us get to this stage and to all the expert practitioners who will support us to deliver it. We look forward to working with Police Scotland to improve the national response.”
The training begins on the same day Police Scotland launches its festive domestic abuse campaign, at a time of year which traditionally sees an increase in reports of domestic abuse.
Assistant Chief Constable MacDonald said, “On average, our officers respond to a call about domestic abuse every nine minutes but these call-outs increase over the festive period, which should be a time of peace for people, safe in their homes with their loved ones.
“Our new campaign is a warning to offenders. We do not tolerate domestic abuse. Any criminal behaviour will be actively investigated by police, including the coercive and controlling behaviours used to exert control over victims.
“We also want to encourage victims to come forward and report all forms of domestic abuse. We will thoroughly investigate and provide the necessary support to those who report to us.”
The £42,000 campaign will include TV adverts targeting offenders as well as going across Police Scotland’s social media channels. It will run from 10 December to 7 January.