Over 7,500 who made request to disclosure scheme found out about partner’s abusive past

Thousands of people have found out about their partner’s abusive past after making requests to a police hotline since it was set up six years ago.

Around 56% of the 13,334 requests – or 7,530 people – who made requests to the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse in Scotland after it launched in October 2015 were told their current partner had a violent or abusive past.

Detective Chief Superintendent Sam Faulds, head of public protection at Police Scotland, said: “Behind the numbers are people who have either escaped becoming victims of domestic abuse, or who are now aware of their partner’s abusive past.

“Abusers manipulate and control their victims. Abuse can be gradual and it can be very difficult for victims of domestic abuse to recognise their situation and to then take action to get themselves out of it.”

He said the scheme provided the first step and could “help prevent domestic abuse and the long-term damage it can cause victims, their families and their children”.

The Police Scotland scheme has two elements to it – a right to ask and a power to tell.

It means a person can make a direct application to the police for information about another. Any concerned third party, like a parent, relative, neighbour or friend, can make an application on the person’s behalf.

And the power to tell means the person can be told if Police Scotland receive indirect information or intelligence about a person thought to be at risk where, after all appropriate checks are made, officers judge a disclosure should be made to safeguard that person.

Each case is considered by a panel to determine whether disclosure is lawful, necessary and proportionate to protect the person from their partner, Police Scotland said.

“People told about a partner’s past have the right to choose the course of action they wish to take, and practical support and advice is available from our partners,” said Det Ch Supt Faulds.

“Each year reports of domestic abuse increase over the festive period. This year we are acutely aware of the impact of the pandemic on victims locked in with the person responsible for their abuse.

“So this festive season we are appealing to friends, family, colleagues and neighbours or anyone who sees something to call it out if they are concerned that someone may be a victim of domestic abuse. Get in touch with us and we will make sure that person is OK and we will investigate the circumstances.

“All it takes is one person to alert us and we can help end the threat and harm caused by domestic abuse.”

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, backed the scheme.

“Survivors of domestic abuse face so many barriers to seeking support, and for loved ones it can be challenging finding the best way to support them safely,” she said.

“Providing a tool like the disclosure scheme that can inform survivors or their loved ones of previous abusive behaviour could help in preventing harm to women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse.”

And Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said she hoped it encouraged people who had experienced domestic abuse to “realise that they are not alone”.

“With reports of domestic abuse increasing in Scotland, it is important to recognise the long-term trauma that domestic abuse can cause,” she said.

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