Policing domestic abuse in Scotland
: a social constructionist approach

  • Katarzyna Prusak

Student thesis: Masters ThesisMasters by Research


This paper tries to examine the origin and consequences of a specific crime control strategy in Scotland, namely the use of pro-arrest policies with relation to domestic abuse incidents. The researcher conducted interviews with 10 police officers and the narrative evidence seems to support findings of other studies on mandatory and presumptive arrest policies that suggest that those policies may be more harmful than beneficial. Of particular concern is the use of detention and arrest in cases where there is not enough evidence that a crime has been committed or in cases that may involve false allegations, as well as the potential for those policies to disempower victims and have the unintended effect of reducing reporting. The interviews also appear to substantiate the criticism that the application of a broad definition of domestic abuse leads to an intrusive policing of the private lives of an increasing number of individuals, even minors. Importantly, the net-widening effect of a broad definition of domestic abuse as well as an indiscriminate arrest policy result in system overload and, consequently, in the limited resources being directed away from the real victims of domestic abuse. Indeed, it is argued here that it is the retributive and symbolic element of those policies that makes them appealing to policy makers who see the punitive approach to crime control as necessary in order to reassure the public that they increasingly see as vulnerable. Importantly, this paper aims to provide an alternative explanation of the prominence of Domestic Abuse on political agenda in Scotland by placing it in its wider social, political and historical context and by examining it from a subjectivist stance as opposed to the objectivist perspective which means looking at it critically as a social rather than a purely natural phenomenon.
Date of Award18 Oct 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Abertay University
SupervisorStuart Waiton (Supervisor) & Donncha Marron (Supervisor)


  • Domestic abuse
  • Scotland
  • Mandatory and presumptive arrest policies
  • Social constructionism
  • Policing
  • Claimsmaking.

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