Surge in West Lothian domestic abuse cases

The surge in domestic abuse incidents reported in West Lothian during the pandemic could be the tip of the iceberg.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 6:00 am
Stock photo by Laura Dodsworth.

As reported earlier this year, the county saw a 17 per cent rise in the number of cases after the start of lockdown. That rise has continued as the year has gone on.

A report to West Lothian Council’s Community Safety Partnership highlighted 70 more cases in the third quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2019-20.

Councilor Kirsteen Sullivan, asked at the meeting: “Do we think these are being under-reported? I am worried that we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

The local police Area Commander, Chief Inspector Alun Williams said: “It is completely under-reported. I don’t think there’s any doubt at all.”

He added: “I think what we have seen is a lot of really positive steps from a lot of support agencies. I think the support agencies we have in West Lothian are particularly strong.”

Ch Insp Williams said that a lot of the work that had been done had thrown light on repeat offenders. And that police continued to put a lot of focus into enforcement.

The police actively use social media to warn there is no place to hide from domestic and sexual abuse cases and encouraging victims to come forward.

Councillor Sullivan suggested that more visibility of enforcement outcomes might encourage more victims of assault to come forward – giving them confidence that they would be listened to.

Tim Ward, senior manager of the council’s Criminal Justice team, said a high profile social media campaign had been launched by the council last year and that was being maintained.

He added: “Levels of reporting have been very high through contact that has taken place through DASAT [the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Team] and through partner agencies such as West Lothian Women’s Aid as well as referrals from Police Scotland.”

Councillor Sullivan asked if there were any “pinch points” created by the increasing demand. Mr Ward said there was a threefold increase in the demand for trauma counselling. Extra money had been made available by the council in its budget this year and money has also come from national agencies.

Housing Manager Ann Marie Carr told the meeting the Rapid Rehousing Transition Programme would also focus on helping victims of domestic abuse.

West Lothian is one of the few local authorities to core fund a specialist staff team to work with partner agencies and the police to help victims of domestic abuse.