Preventing domestic homicides

Multi-agency taskforce to ensure lessons are learned from each case.

A multi-agency taskforce will develop a new approach to helping prevent homicides in Scotland where domestic abuse is suspected.

Partners including COSLA, Police Scotland, social work, Scottish Women’s Aid, Health Boards and victims’ representatives will work together to create Scotland’s first domestic homicide review system.

The taskforce will examine approaches in other jurisdictions, elsewhere in the UK and internationally, to help develop a Scotland-specific system which learns from the circumstances around domestic abuse-related homicides in Scotland. 

This will help agencies and organisations better identify and respond effectively to the risks associated with abuse and ultimately prevent further deaths.

Homicide figures for 2021-22, published last month, showed a record low homicide rate, but also narrated that the number of female victims rose from 10 to 16, with more than half (56%) of those killed by a partner or ex-partner.

The new domestic homicide review system will further deliver on Scottish Government commitments to eradicate violence against women and girls. It follows the passage and implementation of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 - heralded as gold-standard legislation by campaigners - which has made ongoing controlling and coercive behaviour in a relationship a criminal offence.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “Men’s violence against women and girls is one of the most devastating and fundamental violations of human rights.

“Any form of abuse is wrong, and in many cases the victim and perpetrator may have been in contact with services ranging from drug, alcohol and mental health services where there may be signs of risk that can be identified and dealt with at an earlier stage before it escalates to homicide.

“Domestic Homicide Reviews are not about finger pointing or apportioning blame among agencies. This is fundamentally about learning lessons, identifying areas for change and improvement within and across agencies, preventing further domestic homicides and giving a voice to the relatives and victims of those affected by such devastating crimes. 

“This new taskforce will meet in the coming weeks to begin developing a review model, in line with evidence and best practice, with a view to proposals going to public consultation next year.

“This particular project continues our close working with criminal justice and third sector partners in a collective effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate domestic abuse.”

Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “We have long called for a domestic abuse killings review model in Scotland that makes the deaths and murders of women and children visible, and we welcome the Scottish Government moving in this direction today.

“We must create a system that is prepared to learn lessons swiftly and that takes into account all deaths because of domestic abuse – including deaths by suicide and killings of children – and we are looking forward to discussions about how we create a Scottish model that is robust and fit for purpose.

“One death because of domestic abuse is one death too many – Women’s Aid staff and surviving family members across the country know this. We thank all of them who have campaigned with us on this issue for their tenacity and determination in memory of their mothers, sisters, friends, children and loved ones.”


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