Incidents of domestic abuse recorded by police have increased in East Ayrshire for the third year in a row, new data has revealed.

Scotland’s Chief Statistician released figures on domestic abuse recorded by Police Scotland in 2018/19.

Erik Sutherland, interim head of locality health and care services, said: “East Ayrshire Council shares the concern of all our partners and stakeholders at the 4.4 per cent increase in recorded incidents of domestic abuse.

“However, we would encourage a cautious interpretation of this headline figure, as it represents a level of increase between two yearly periods only and should not be taken as representative of the wider trend in East Ayrshire.”

The increase of 4.4 per cent takes the numbers to the highest since 2016/17.

Police recorded more than 1,400 incidents across the region.

However, this is still lower than the peak over the last ten years between 2014 and 2016 of 128 incidents per 10,000 people.

But it is higher than the Scottish average of 112 incidents per 10,000 head of population.

The police recorded 60,641 incidents of domestic abuse in 2018/19 across the nation, an increase of two per cent compared to the previous year and a ten year high.

Mr Sutherland said: “It is widely acknowledged that, for a variety of reasons, incidents of domestic abuse have been significantly under-reported across Scotland.

“We would consider that the increase in recorded incidents of domestic abuse is an encouraging sign that individuals are increasingly confident about reporting incidents of domestic abuse to the police.

“East Ayrshire Council and its partners have undertaken a significant range of work to address and tackle the issue of domestic abuse across the local authority area.”

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan Sloan, lead for major crime and public protection, said: “Domestic abuse is a despicable and debilitating crime which continues to affect too many people, families and communities across Scotland.

“Our officers are making best use of the new domestic abuse offence. I would expect that we will see an increase in the number of crimes recorded going forward, recognising the incidence of coercive and controlling behaviours that are now criminal as a result of the Domestic Abuse Act.

“No-one should live in fear. It is not acceptable, not inevitable, and we believe that by working together, we can make it stop.”

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid said: “With these figures we must bear in mind that reports to police are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to domestic abuse.

“We know that women are very often reluctant to report for fear of what will happen to them, and to their children. So, while the figure of 60,641 reports is shocking in and of itself, it becomes even more upsetting when you consider it is a fraction of the abuse actually unfolding across Scotland right now.

“Looking at the trend across ten years, we can see that we have much more work to do when it comes to ending domestic abuse in Scotland.”

“It lies with all of us - police, judiciary, services, individuals and the Government - to change the landscape for women and children experiencing this daily fear, including those who never report it to the police.

“We are proud to be in a country that is working hard to reflect women and children’s experiences, having passed and began implementing a world-leading new law on domestic abuse. However, now is not the time for complacency and we will continue to call for vigilance.”

For anyone experiencing domestic abuse, or those concerned about someone else, help is always available from local Women’s Aid services and from Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline, available 24/7 on 0800 027 1234.