Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC has defended the prosecution service over its handing of domestic abuse cases, following allegations that prosecutors were being left with no discretion over bringing charges where they believed there was insufficient evidence for conviction.

Speaking at a conference of justices of the peace in Clydebank, Mr Wolffe said he would not apologise for taking a "rigorous approach" to domestic abuse, which could cause "significant and enduring harm to direct and indirect victims – including children".

Domestic abuse was a form of criminal behaviour "that for far too long was not taken sufficiently seriously by the criminal justice system", but which covered "a wide spectrum of offending from one-off incidents of vilence to cases involving sinister, insidious abuse persisting over many years".

On prosecution policy, he continued: "The police have been instructed not to report cases where there is a patent insufficency of evidence, and prosecutors cannot and will not bring proceedings where there is insufficient evidence.

"Any suggestion that prosecutions will be initiated where there is insufficient evidence in law is inaccurate and represents a misunderstanding of the position."

Despite the difficulties in prosecuting such cases, the Crown secured an 80% conviction rate.

However in a letter published in today's Scottish Legal News, a former procurator fiscal claims that domestic abuse cases were specially marked and kept separate and "there was absolutely a situation where cases involving a domestic element were marked for prosecution when the evidence was incredibly scant and conviction(s) unlikely".