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The coronavirus lockdown has sparked a surge in requests from people wanting to know if their partner has an abusive past, police figures show.
The Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse in Scotland gives people the right to ask police about the history of their partners.
The legislation also gives police the power to tell someone if they think they may be at risk.
There has been an 18% rise in requests to reveal past abuse since lockdown.
Police Scotland, which runs the scheme, said the majority of the increase was down to “power to tell” requests made by police officers and social workers raising concerns about someone they think may be at risk of abuse.
Charities have already warned that the severity of domestic abuse is likely to increase during lockdown as many victims have lost access to time away from abusive situations through school, family or work.
Environment ‘Looking for tell-tale signs’
Assistant Chief Constable Duncan Sloan said: “We recognise that the threat has not gone away, in fact it has increased.
“Clearly some people’s homes are not a safe place for them but our response has not changed, it is still a top priority for us.
“Our officers are not just looking for physical violence, they are looking for the tell-tale signs of any controlling or coercive behaviour.”
Latest recorded crime figures show a slight decrease in domestic abuse incidents in the lockdown period but ACC Sloan warned of an “upsurge” in reported cases to come.
He added: “I expect the number of domestic abuse incidents has increased but they just haven’t been reported as yet.
“The reality of the situation is it could be weeks, months or years before we see the impact Covid-19 has brought upon us.”
Latest figures show that in the year to 31 March, a total of 2,648 requests were received by the police under the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse in Scotland, a 66% increase on the 1,596 applications in 2018/19.
A total of 1,240 disclosures were made to people indicating that their partner had an abusive past – a 40% increase on the previous year.
This takes into account applications under both the Right to Ask, received from individuals, and the Power to Tell, where Police Scotland decides to make a disclosure to safeguard a person.
Police Scotland figures show that between 23 March and 27 April, there has been an 18% increase in requests for disclosure over the same period last year (258 compared with 219 in 2019).
Environment ‘Do whatever they need to for their own safety’
Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, which runs Scotland’s domestic abuse helpline, said: “In these particular times, we welcome any continuing efforts on the part of police and other justice colleagues to make it clear that women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse are still free to do whatever they need to do to for their own safety, even in lockdown.
“While we are very supportive of police being proactive about protecting potential victims of domestic abuse, we are also very keen to see outcomes data about whether women and children are actually safer as a result of the disclosure scheme.”
Last month, the Scottish government announced it was providing Scottish Women’s Aid with £1.35m over six months from its Communities Fund, to help those at risk of domestic violence.