Convictions for domestic abuse offences across the Highlands and Moray have soared over the last four years, new figures have revealed.
The number of convictions made at Inverness Sheriff Court increased from 142 in 2013-14 to 259 in 2016-17, while at Elgin Sheriff Court the figure rose from 153 to 219 over the same period.
Politicians said the figures were a “shocking reminder” that each and every day there are cases of domestic abuse taking place in our local communities.
The figures also showed high conviction rates for cases heard in both Elgin and Inverness last year – 92% and 84% respectively.
And they revealed that the number of perpetrators who were served a jail term for their actions nearly quadrupled in Inverness – from 10 to 37 – and almost doubled in Elgin from 15 to 29.
Last night, Inverness Women’s Aid executive manager Elaine Fetherston, said there has been a 15% year-on-year rise in the number of referrals to their service in the last three months.
She added: “We work with women and children who have endured dreadful levels of abuse and the increases in convictions and custodial sentences send a clear message to those committing abuse.
“We are confident that the new justice centre in Inverness will further contribute to this by increasing the visibility of these issues and ensuring that abusers continue to be brought to justice.”
Ms Fetherston added that a strengthening of multi-agency work – involving police, Women’s Aid, health, social work and housing – in recent years has helped ensure high-risk individuals are identified and measures are put in place to protect them.
The latest figures on domestic abuse convictions were obtained from the Scottish Government under freedom of information laws.
In Aberdeen, convictions shot up from 509 in 2013-14 to 736 the following year – but have since fallen to 662 in 2016-17, with 52 receiving prison sentences.
Elsewhere in the Highlands, convictions at Wick Sheriff Court more than doubled from 25 to 54, while at Lerwick in Shetland the numbers rose from 25 to 45, with Stornoway rising from 18 to 32.
Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant said she was “alarmed” by the figures as they highlight the sheer “depth of the problem.”
She added: “Each figures is an individual living in fear. Convictions hide the mental strain and controlling behaviour behind it.”
Mrs Grant believes the rise is down to police taking the issue more seriously in recent years, more support services being readily available to women and social attitudes shifting towards a zero tolerance of domestic abuse.
But she warned that, in a time of budget austerity, it is vital to ensure the work of Women’s Aid groups continues.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said the number of convictions is a “shocking reminder” that each and every day there are cases of domestic abuse taking place in our local communities.
He added: “However, given that tackling domestic abuse has benefited from a greater focus by the justice system in recent years, this increase in convictions would appear to show that this kind of crime is now being taken a lot more seriously.
“Hopefully that will lead to more and more victims, particularly women, having the confidence to come forwards and seek the support of the justice system and the authorities.”
Detective Chief Inspector Vincent Mclaughlin, head of the Highlands and Islands Public Protection Unit, said: “While it is disappointing that these figures show that people still commit acts of domestic violence in our communities, it also shows that perpetrators are being brought to justice.”