An £825,000 training scheme will help police officers across Scotland deal with some of the more “insidious and damaging” forms of domestic abuse, the Justice Secretary said.
Humza Yousaf spoke out as Police Scotland began preparing more than 14,000 officers and staff for the introduction in 2019 of new legislation banning controlling and coercive behaviour.
At the same time the force also launched its annual campaign against domestic abuse over the festive period.
While officers typically respond to a call about this every nine minutes, the number increases over the Christmas and New Year period.
Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald was clear: “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.”
A total of 59,541 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded in 2017-18, an increase of 1% on the previous year.
The new training programme has been developed by Police Scotland and SafeLives, a UK charity committed to eradicating domestic abuse.
Over the next 18 months, over 14,000 officers and staff will complete a day long face to face training session, as well as an online e-learning course.
Ms MacDonald 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.”
Meanwhile Mr 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.”