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

This research reports on 22 victims’ and witnesses’ experiences of court (including children and young people) since the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 in April 2019.

Appendix 1: Research Questions

Research Questions

The research questions are in bold with the suggested topics from Scottish Government underneath. These were considered with woman and child survivor expert consultants and developed into interview topic guides and workbooks – see appendices 3 and 5.

For children who have been cited witnesses in a domestic abuse court case or to whom the DASA child aggravator applies:

1. What were children's expectations of going to court? Were these met/not met?

2. How do children describe their 'journey' (in their own words) through a domestic abuse court case?

  • How did they feel about the 'journey' through the court case overall? Was it a positive or negative experience? Why?
  • Did they go to court? What was the experience like?
  • Did they give evidence by commission[1]? How did their experience of giving evidence (e.g. pre-recorded, live link) make them feel?
  • What are their experiences of telling their story? Did they feel able to? How do they feel when telling it? How many times/to how many people did they have to tell it?
  • Did they feel included/listened to/respected/believed? If not, why not?
  • Were their information and communication needs met? Did they understand what was happening/what was going to happen?
  • Did they feel safe at any/all stages of the court process? If not, what made them feel unsafe?
  • Did the process feel 'trauma-informed'? Did they feel cared for by the professionals in the justice system? Was the support they received helpful?
  • Did they feel that what they wanted was taken into consideration?

3. How do children describe the impact that going to court had on them?

  • How did they feel when the case was over? Was it what they wanted/expected?
  • Overall, did they feel that going to court had made their situation better or worse, or made no difference?
  • What was the most helpful thing that happened/someone did? What was the least helpful thing that happened/someone did?
  • What do they think could have made their court experience better/easier for them?

4. In what way, if any, did COVID-19 affect children's court experience?

  • What was their experience of remote courts like?

5. How might the court process better support child victims and witnesses?

For adults who have been victims/witnesses in a domestic abuse court case:

1. What were adult victims/witnesses expectations of reporting domestic abuse and going to court? Were these met/not met?

2. How do adult victims/witnesses describe their experience of a domestic abuse court case?

  • How do they describe their experiences in court? Did they feel that they were taken seriously by those in the justice system? At all stages? (e.g. when reporting emotional abuse and/or a pattern of abusive behaviours)
  • Did they feel that they were well-informed/listened to/respected/in control? Was what they wanted taken into consideration?
  • Were their communication and information needs met? If not, why not?
  • To what extent do victims/witnesses feel that the case brought against the accused accurately reflects the abuse that they experienced? If not, why not?
  • Did the process feel 'trauma-informed'? Was the support they received helpful?
  • What were victims/witnesses' experiences of courts granting/not granting Non-Harassment Orders?
  • Where relevant, what are victims/witnesses' views of the child sentencing aggravation? Did they feel that the impact on their children (where relevant) was acknowledged and/or informed court decisions?
  • Where participants have children, did they feel that their best interests were taken into consideration? What happened?

3. What are the perceived impacts of the court experience on victims/witnesses?

  • Did going to court make a difference for the victim/witness? If so, how?
  • Do victims/witnesses feel safer as a result of reporting the abuse and the case going to court? If not, what could have helped them to feel safer?
  • Where the victim/witness has a dependent child, what impact do they think the court case had on their child(ren)? And/or their family as a whole? What could have been done to make it easier for their child(ren)/family?
  • What do victims/witnesses think could have improved their justice experience?

4. How do adult victims/witnesses think COVID-19 affected their experience of the justice system?

  • How do victims/witnesses describe their experiences of remote courts?

5. How might the court process better support victims and witnesses?



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