Domestic abuse court experiences - perspectives of victims and witnesses: research findings - summary

Summarizes the key findings of an in-depth qualitative study on 22 victims’ and witnesses’ experiences of court since the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 (DASA) in April 2019.


The study's qualitative design enabled in-depth exploration of participants' experiences of the justice system in the context of domestic abuse; 22 adult and child victims and witnesses were interviewed. Demographic and court case data were collected from support agencies involved. A thematic approach to analysis was employed. The study received ethical approval from the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Government.

Research aim and questions

The research explored victims' and witnesses' experiences of court since implementation of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 in April 2019. Participants described their journey through a domestic abuse court case in detail: police investigation; court preparation; being at court; and after court. Research questions centred on expectations, impact, safety, trauma, inclusion, information, justice, and support. Participants were also asked how the court process might better support adult and child victims/witnesses.

Participants, scope and context of the research

The research draws on the views and experiences of: 13 adult victim complainants; 4 young victim complainants (in relation to abuse in their own relationships); and 5 court cited child witnesses (in relation to an adult complainant case). All were involved in (closed) domestic abuse court cases. Twelve participants were involved in Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 (DASA) cases and 14 were involved in cases with a domestic abuse aggravator. For participants in this research the average time from reporting to case closure was 9.6 months. During the research period (2019-2022) COVID-19 significantly impacted the running of the criminal justice system, including court processes (e.g. court delays) and service availability and delivery, as well as victims' experiences of domestic abuse (e.g. during lockdowns). Further research is needed to examine victims' and witnesses' (and potentially other key actors') experiences of the ongoing implementation of the Act as the justice system recovers from the pandemic.



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