Scotland

Training for police to identify 'insidious' abuse

Domestic abuse Image copyright Laura Dodsworth
Image caption The new laws will target psychological abuse

Police officers and staff are to receive training to prepare them for a planned change in the law on domestic abuse.

If a bill currently before Holyrood is passed, coercive and controlling behaviour will be made a criminal offence.

It means a change for officers more used to detecting physical assaults.

Ministers say psychological abuse can often cause lasting damage. They hope the new law will be in place in 2018.

A total of 14,000 police and control room staff will be given the training in the new year, ahead of the expected implementation of the new legislation.

Image copyright Scottish government advert
Image caption It can be easier to identify victims of physical abuse than to identify controlling behaviour

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill is expected to receive its third stage debate - the final hurdle in the Scottish Parliament - in January.

Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald, of Police Scotland, said the bill would target crimes which are more "insidious", and that officers would require additional training to be able to identify the new offences.

ACC MacDonald said it was a complex area which could include financial control and restricting a victim's activities and movements, which could often result in a lack of confidence.

She said: "The signs often aren't as visible as physical assault signs.

"So it's really important our officers understand what it is they are looking for, and how to spot that identifier, and then support victims that are suffering from it."

Image caption ACC Gillian MacDonald said officers would be trained to support victims

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said in many cases psychological abuse and controlling behaviour could be worse than physical abuse.

He said it was important to tackle all aspects of domestic abuse, which must no longer be seen as a private matter," he said.

"I want to make sure our police service is properly equipped with the skills they need to be able to identify that type of behaviour.

"That's why the training of some 14,000 police officers and staff will help to support us in doing that."

Mr Matheson said this would help make sure that officers have an understanding of coercive and controlling behaviour, as well as psychological abuse.

It would also ensure that such crimes could be prosecuted effectively once the legislation has been approved by parliament.