Wife beaters can expect no mercy from cops or council
The domestic abuse campaign team includes (left to right front row) Janine Jardine from Women’s Aid, SNP Cllrs Diane Docherty and Caroline McAllister, housing boss Peter Barry, colleague Scott McLelland and Detective Inspector Ogilvie Ross.
By Bill Heaney
Police Scotland had a clear message this week for men who enjoy punching their wives and terrorising their children.
Beat your wife or partner and you will end up homeless and most probably in jail.
Domestic abuse was something that may not have been treated as seriously as it should have been in the past.
It is no longer “just a domestic” but a serious crime which can range from simple assault to murder.
West Dunbartonshire Council has become the first social landlord in Scotland to introduce a zero tolerance policy on domestic abuse within its properties.
The council has introduced measures which will ensure victims have immediate access to practical help and specialist legal assistance and support following any incidence of domestic abuse.
In addition, the local authority will use the full scope of Anti-Social Behaviour powers in conjunction with Housing and Matrimonial Homes Legislation to ensure victims can remain at home, whilst the perpetrator will be legally removed, and prevented from returning.
Detective Inspector Ogilvie Ross said victims and neighbours who witness abuse should not shirk from taking action and ‘phone the police, where their calls will be treated very seriously and confidentially if they so wish.
He was speaking at the launch of a campaign with the council housing department and Woman’s Aid to highlight the fact that be a zero tolerance approach to domestic abuse.
This involves assaults mainly on women and children who were being terrorised and traumatised by their partners’ behaviour and being assaulted both physically and psychologically.
Council housing boss Peter Barry said the council was acting in response to figures which highlight West Dunbartonshire as having the highest incidences of domestic abuse per head of the population in Scotland.
“It is not the kind of league table you want to find yourself at the top of,” he said.
The ‘No Home for Domestic Abuse’ campaign will protect victims and their families by introducing a presumption that all tenancies for couples are in joint names.
“If an incident of domestic abuse occurs, the victim will legally be entitled to remain in the home, ” said Mr Barry.
He added: “The council will also take a tough stance on tenants found guilty of committing domestic abuse by offering them only short-term tenancies and ensuring the property is at a distance from the victim.”
Janine Jardine, Cllrs Diane Docherty and Caroline McAllister, Peter Barry and Scott McLelland, of West Dunbartonshire Council. Picture by Bill Heaney
Women’s Aid representative Janine Jardine said she was satisfied that the police attitude to domestic abuse had changed dramatically.
It was now treated with the importance and seriousness it merited and there was a joined up approach to dealing with it.
Woman’s Aid had two refuges, one in Clydebank with two flats and the other in Vale of Leven, which had ten flats.
She said they had accommodated families with up to eight children.
Janine was delighted with the co-operation and support of SNP-controlled West Dunbartonshire Council who had agreed to support Woman’s Aid financially for the next three years.
Peter Barry said his department had set aside 50 properties for domestic abuse victims and housing staff would join with Police, Courts and Criminal Justice teams to coordinate swift action against the most serious offenders.
Work would also take place in co-operation with West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership (WDHSCP), Police Scotland, and domestic abuse agencies to implement the new measures and send a clear message that domestic abuse will not be tolerated in any household.
Councillor Diane Docherty, Convener of Housing and Communities, said some of the abuse women suffered was appalling.
There were domestic situations where husband demanded everything from the way the table was set for tea to restrictions on who went where and did what.
She said: “We have strong partnerships with a common goal of helping residents who are living with domestic abuse and encouraging, supporting and protecting them so that they can have the courage to report incidents.
“We know domestic abuse is a significant issue for our communities and are all too well aware of the detrimental impact it has on both adult victims and children.
“We need to take radical action to make an impact and that is why we will not only be working with our Police Scotland colleagues and the courts to use the power of the law but also applying housing legislation in order to address this problem.
“We would encourage anyone who needs help or support to contact one of the many agencies across West Dunbartonshire. We understand the significant challenges we face to realistically achieve a reduction in domestic abuse and we would call on our residents and our communities to work with us and help us eradicate it from West Dunbartonshire.”
Cllr Docherty added: “It’s unreasonable, unacceptable and unjust that victims of domestic abuse can be forced to leave their homes while the perpetrator remains there. We are determined as a local authority to do whatever we can to ensure victims of this kind of crime can safely remain in their homes while the offenders are kept away.”
Figures from Police Scotland show 1,395 recorded incidents of domestic abuse were reported in West Dunbartonshire last year and 186 households presented to the Council as homeless.
One of the key strands of the campaign will, in cases where offenders are given bail, see courts asked to make it a condition that they are not bailed to the matrimonial or shared home.
“The Council will also provide practical assistance to change locks and install additional security measures, in addition to facilitating access to specialist legal assistance to ensure victims are empowered to exercise their right to safely remain at home. “
Councillor Caroline McAllister, the Council’s Violence Against Women Champion and spokesperson for Action on Domestic Abuse, said: “This campaign will put the Council and our partners in a stronger position to more robustly tackle this issue in West Dunbartonshire.
“It is wrong for victims of domestic abuse to have to flee their home which only adds to their stress. We want to reassure victims and their families they can stay in their homes and inform them where they can get the help and support locally.”
If you have any concerns about these issues call 01389 738510 or contact your local area Housing Officer.
For more information on the No Home for Domestic Abuse campaign, and for access to a range of support services, call 01389 738510.
To report incidents, call Police Scotland on 101 or in an emergency 999. For direct support contact Women’s Aid Dumbarton on 01389 751036 or Women’s Aid Clydebank on 0141 952 8118.
In an emergency, call Police Scotland on 999 or contact the Scottish Domestic Abuse and Enforced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234 – or visit http://sdafmh.org.uk/