Domestic abuse: justice partners group minutes – February 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 15 February 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Scottish Government
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
  • Judicial Institute for Scotland
  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service

Items and actions

Summary of discussion report


The second in a series of quarterly roundtable discussions convened in order to allow justice partners to thematically discuss concerns and suggested areas for improvement which have arisen from recent reports. The second meeting revisited the discussion point from the previous meeting on how we might look to improve the domestic abuse evidence base. The second meeting also focused on improving the victim experience. 

Improving the evidence base 

Police Scotland 

In response to the actions points from the previous meeting, PS sent Roundtable members information on the Domestic Abuse Working Group and Domestic Abuse Forum. PS also circulated an update on Power-Bi-Dashboards and confirmed in the meeting that these are an analytical tool for strategic management for the internal use of PS only. 

Justice Analytical Services 

At the previous roundtable discussion, JAS were tasked with creating an evidence tracker to keep track of the release of domestic abuse publications and datasets. JAS have completed the first draft and SG will circulate with roundtable colleagues by the end of the week commencing 12th February 2024 for review and recommendations on what data should be added. 

The tracker holds a variety of data, including information on what working groups and networks. Currently, the tool is populated with SG data however, it is hoped that roundtable members will add their own publications to the database too. 

Information on the tracker can be filtered by internally and externally available data.

Whilst further developing the tool, JAS will have to determine if the tool should separate regular statistical publications and standalone research publications or keep them in one place. In addition, JAS will have to employ the help of analytical colleagues to build a calendar to keep track of publications as they come out. 

The tracker holds information on protected characteristics however, following a suggestion from SG policy, JAS will add a tab on the tracker to keep track of British Minority Ethnic (BME) data. 

Scottish Government

SG expressed a concern around the lack of data for subsets of the BME community and around their specific concerns. This issue was raised during a recent meeting between SG and AMINA, where a discussion was held on the lack of data around domestic abuse and BME, including the lack of figures on the number of BME individuals who engage in the disclosure scheme. AMINA were encouraged to raise this at the operational group chaired by Police Scotland. A tab will now be added to the data mapping tool. 

Scottish Government workshop with justice agencies on criminal/civil interface in relation to domestic abuse  

Scottish Government 

SG are planning a workshop with justice agency bodies in the next couple of months around how to improve interface between civil and criminal courts when it comes to domestic abuse. In particular, issues have been raised in relation to child contact cases which has generated a desire to work towards improvements.

The workshop is planned to take place in St. Andrew’s House, Edinburgh and would include a number of organisations of the Roundtable members, with invitations being sent to Roundtable members individually as well as to others in their wider organisations. SG would send out invites following the Roundtable discussion and will include multiple options for dates. SG hope for the workshop to take place in late March/early April. Once a date has been selected, paperwork will be finalised and sent out in advance of the workshop. A further workshop is planned in the summer with a range of third sector bodies, including VAWG agencies along the same lines.

The workshop will focus on the key issues that SG are keen to address. This will include communication between civil and criminal courts and how civil courts get information on domestic abuse. Currently, there are concerns that the civil courts are not always fully informed on domestic abuse that has taken place between the couple, and this is especially an issue in child contact cases where domestic abuse often plays a large role in the situation. The workshops will look at a number of areas, for example, the use of risk assessments. 

SG plan to use improvement technology and theory of change to address the issues discussed during the workshops – evaluating the key issues to be resolved and how solutions may need to be tested or put in place. SG are aware that agencies are working under pressured resources and will therefore initially, focus on the easily remedied problems and what can be achieved in the short term whilst simultaneously creating a road map into longer term solutions as well. 

SG mentioned one of the observations from the Criminal Justice Committee on the expansion of the role of Domestic Abuse Advocates and the communication between Civil and Criminal Courts. SG are having similar discussions with PS on DAPOs and the Disclosure Scheme and on recognising the Civil and Criminal Court cases. 

SG hopes to continue some of the discussions had in the Roundtable discussion, particularly those surrounding improving the links between the Civil and Criminal Courts, more in the upcoming workshops. 


COPFS expressed a desire to attend the workshop mentioned by SG. 

COPFS agreed that the initial focus should be upon what can be achieved easily in the short term due to limited budget and resourcing restraints this would involve working to make small changes in the current system to improve it. 

COPFS stated that one way to enact change is through the current SPR (the standard form for reporting cases) review.  

Domestic abuse event 

Scottish Government

SG are planning on hosting an event on domestic abuse towards the end of summer. There is a lot of activity happening at the moment on a variety of issues including DAPOs, roundtables, reviews etc. The event will act as a springboard into looking at other issues able to be tackled in SG. 

SG are scheduled to have an update on the DASA interim reporting requirement,. SG proposed, and the Roundtable members agreed, to invite Claire Houghton to the next Roundtable discussion meeting to discuss the event. 

SG is already considering the next stages off the Roundtable process after the  initially 12 month initiative. 

Improving the victim experience – main agenda item 

Scottish Government 

SG invited roundtable members to speak on how they are developing their responses to the Criminal Justice Committee’s evaluation and report on the key areas for improvement from the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill. A number of actions from this evaluation were around SG’s approach and how justice partners are working collaboratively. Laura Paton, HM Chief Inspector of Prosecution, has been in contact with SG and there has been an update on how COPFS prosecute domestic abuse cases. 
The reports made a number of comments around the need to improve communications. SG asked Roundtable members if their organisations have narratives on how they are responding to these criticisms. 

SG also raised the importance of developing a shared group narrative on the work being undertaken to improve the experience of victims of domestic abuse. The key focus should be on ensuring justice agencies are joined up and are not just looking at individual agencies’ perspective, but at a strategic approach and the broader work taking place across the Violence Against Women and Girls agenda. 

One concern raised by the Committee’s report was about obtaining feedback from those involved in the justice process throughout their journey. It is also important for the Roundtable to demonstrate to the Committee what organisations are doing with the feedback they are collecting. 

SG believes that there is a lot which the Roundtable Group can bring together in a short paper which they can use to build a narrative. 

Another concern raised by the Committee’s report was about public awareness campaigns as there is a perception that the commencement of the Act was not so successful, and that the public were not aware of its’ commencement. SG asked members if they believe justice partners need to be doing more to raise raising awareness of the legislation more publicly and generally, and if they believed current initiatives address this concern. 

SG have a commitment to produce guidance for people going through family court process. This will be different to the guidance people receive in domestic abuse process. But they are similar as they are both involving vulnerable individuals. SG are looking to process this this year. The information will include what to expect when you go to court and other alternatives to court in family cases. This civil action parallels to things happening in criminal space. 

SG stated that raising the awareness of the rights of victims in the justice process will increase inquisitiveness and it is therefore necessary to set expectations about how much justice agencies can answer questions.


COPFS met with Laura Paton recently who confirmed that her report will likely be published in April. 

COPFS stated that the data emerging from the summary case management pilots’ areas is encouraging. Judicial management, which is a key to success, has been more robust. This is now rolling out in Glasgow. 

COPFS suspect that Laura Paton will make comments on specialist courts. The specialist court in Glasgow may come under scrutiny. COPFS raised the point that it is the 20-year anniversary of ASSIST and the creation of the specialist court, something the Roundtable may wish to be aware of. 

COPFS raised a number of points surrounding training on domestic abuse: 
•    Police Scotland are currently doing a lot to train officers on domestic abuse. 
•    COPFS have been holding meetings to gain information and review training materials for their staff on domestic abuse. 
•    in general, current domestic abuse training focuses on recognition of the dynamics of abuse and needs to incorporate practical training. 
•    all staff in COPFS are completing trauma informed training. COPFS believe that everyone working in the public service should have knowledge of the dynamics and practical information on communication on domestic abuse. 

COPFS receive anonymous feedback from Race Crisis Scotland in High Court Sexual Offences cases as victims have the option to provide anonymous feedback. At the moment, COPFS are getting good general feedback from Rape Crisis Scotland. A lot of victims want to provide feedback, to improve the system for future victims, without sending in a formal complaint. COPFS is scoping ways to broaden opportunities for victims to provide informal or anonymous feedback which they would monitor and learn from.

COPFS expressed the view that the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 provides cogent rights to victims but that there does not appear to be general awareness of those rights. Understanding the court process and knowing they have a right to information would be particularly helpful to victims of domestic abuse. This information is on the COPFS and SG websites but the letters and feedback COPFS receive indicate that victims go through the process and still don’t always understand how it works at the end of it. This can lead to them feeling that they have not been heard and that they have not had justice. Understandably, this leads to complaints. Justice agencies could do more to explain the court process to victims. 

COPFS suggested that if general information about the court process was more widely available, family and friends would be better equipped to support those going through the court process. They question if a wider public awareness campaign on the rights of victims is needed, so that victims and their families have this knowledge before the point of crisis.  

Police Scotland

PS is undertaking a huge amount of work on training and are ensuring that lived experience is introduced into all training. For instance, the Public Protection Development Programme. CPD training is already live for all officers with five other modules going live in the month of March 2024 – all have lived experience incorporated. PS is also in the process of developing and implementing training on LGBT barriers to reporting domestic abuse. LGBT are assisting with this. Police Scotland are currently pulling together a training matrix to show what training police officers get from joining to becoming a Chief Constable. PS are still in the process of developing this but, will share this with Roundtable members soon. 

PS are currently in the third quarter of a Victim survivor feedback process. This is being fed in at strategic level with the purpose of learning about the highlights and lowlights of survivors’ experiences. It will also be used as a tool for understanding where policy and process can improve. 

PS have carried out a number of domestic abuse campaigns in winter around general awareness. For example, the “That Guy” campaign is Police Scotland’s award winning campaign that aims to reduce rape, serious assault and harassment by taking frank conversations with men about male sexual entitlement. The “Is That Me” campaign is a media campaign calling on men to reflect, take action and stop domestic abuse before it starts. 


The judicial led and SCTS supported SCM pilots, which focus on domestic abuse cases, as referenced by COPFS, have shown promising results; and evidence the importance of cross justice partner organisations working collaboratively in addressing the challenges of this case type in particular. 

SCTS undertakes (through the instruction of an independent 3rd party) an annual Court User Satisfaction Survey. The results of which are a valuable tool in reviewing how it can further support, develop and improve user service experience. It covers the wider population of court users. It is widely accepted across the criminal justice sector that there are challenges to and a fine balance to be met in obtaining live experience feedback given the potential for further re-traumatisation. Such matters and the potential development of ‘live’ feedback loops from Victims and Witnesses in order to assess the impact of changes being implemented was being discussed at the Criminal Justice Board and Programme Board, and SCTS would work with members on that. 

SCTS have undertaken extensive work including with NHS-Education for Scotland on the development of and have now commenced the rollout trauma informed training. This is a key part not only for domestic abuse victims, but for all users.

Innovating on experience gained in the Virtual Summary Trials pilot, SCM and others pilots to date the SCTS, in collaboration with justice partners is seeking to introduce a bespoke judicially led pilot to respond to the special needs and challenges domestic abuse cases bring.  The dedicated end to end  virtual trauma informed domestic abuse court virtual model is intended to be rolled out in the sheriffdom of Grampian Highlands and Islands, initially at Aberdeen Sheriff court. The national steering group which includes membership from SCTS, COPFS, SG, third sector and the legal profession is working closely with partners to a develop a timeline for its introduction. 

Judicial Institute for Scotland

The Judicial Institute for Scotland stated that there is an issue, not necessarily surrounding public awareness of domestic abuse, but of complainer awareness of their rights throughout the process. The Judicial Institute for Scotland have recently been approached by SafeLives, funded by SG, about a domestic abuse advocacy campaign and are working with this organisation to provide information about the role of the Sherrif and of Acts. The Judicial Institute for Scotland suggested that this information could be publicly shared also and mentioned that they are working to provide public information to go on the Judicial Institute for Scotland website. The Judicial Institute for Scotland mentioned, however, that there are local nuances as local courts approach and carry out their processes differently – highlighting that justice agencies are working in a system which is inconsistent. SG stated that this is something which could be explored and shared with colleagues. 


Scottish Government

SG discussed an online event being run by Safe Lives on the 8th of March, International Women’s Day 2024. This will be a large online event where the Minister is planning on attending and speaking at. The event will also involve a discussion for the next steps of Safe Lives’ programme which is in its’ 2nd of three years, as well as a conversation on the initiatives discussed in the Roundtable discussion. SG will send Roundtable members an invitation to this event and asked Roundtable members who will be attending. 

SG are going to create a webpage for the Roundtable on the SG website. This will include publications which have been approved by Roundtable members and have already been published. The creation of the webpage will be a positive development towards ensuring a public approach for the Roundtable. SG will circulate the text and documents, intended to be added to the webpage, to Roundtable members for approval. SG will also share this with the Criminal Justice Committee. 


COPFS will be speaking at the Safe Lives event on the 8th of March to support the launch of national advocacy standards. 

Conclusions and observations  

Scottish Government

SG discussed the potential to move Roundtable meetings to once every four months, rather than quarterly (although the next meeting to be in advance of the Holyrood Insights Conference in May. SG will send a Doodle Poll to Roundtable members to establish the date for the next meeting. SG will also look into what will be discussed at the next meeting and what will be added to the webpage. SG are also looking into new research, which they will send to Roundtable members. SG will send a meeting note to Roundtable members for review prior to the next meeting. 

Next steps/actions

  • SG to send out invitation to Roundtable members on the workshop with Justice Agencies on Criminal/Civil Interface in Relation to Domestic Abuse. 
  • PS will send out information on the domestic abuse training matrix, showing what training police officers get from joining to becoming a Chief Constable, once it is completed to Roundtable members soon.
  • SG will send Roundtable members an invitation to the SafeLives 8th March event and asked Roundtable members who will be attending. 
  • Roundtable members will update SG on if they are attending the SafeLives 8th March event. 
  • SG will circulate the text and documents, intended to be added to the webpage, to Roundtable members for approval. 
  • SG will also share the information on the website with the Criminal Justice Committee. 
  • SG will send a Doodle Poll to Roundtable members to establish the date for the next meeting. 
  • SG will look into what will be discussed at the next meeting and what will be added to the webpage. 
  • SG will send a meeting note to Roundtable members for review prior to the next meeting. 
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