Domestic abuse: justice partners group minutes – November 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Scottish Government group on 6 November 2023

Attendees and apologies

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


  • Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service

Items and actions

Summary of discussion report


The first 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 first meeting focused on how we might look to improve the domestic abuse evidence base through highlighting recent data developments and gaps within partner organisations and interested parties, allowing for a stronger strategic response to be taken towards data collection and usage. 

Presentation from Justice Analytical Services on planned data developments in SG, Partner Abuse Module (SCJS) for Unreported Abuse, and Police Recorded Domestic Abuse. 

Slide one 

•    improving the evidence base is one of the key areas of focus for the Scottish Government over the next 12 months.  
•    the data gaps seem to convene on protected characteristics and disaggregated data and improved data collection on minority groups. 

Slide two

•    update on crime survey and the changes made to their current 2023/24 survey sweep. 
•    the key aim of the work on partner abuse was to better capture experiences of coercive control, including patterns of ongoing control and the impact on victims.
•    the survey has moved away from asking about specific incidences of physical and psychological abuse and instead ask about experiences or types of abuse (e.g., financial, physical, sexual etc.).
•    as the partner abuse module has been significantly redeveloped, Justice Analytical Service (JAS) are effectively restarting the time-series for these questions and will urge care when making comparisons with previous year’s figures.
•    changes were also made to the VAWG questions which are spread throughout the survey and have been updated to keep up with new terms of thinking. 
•    these changes focused on questions that relate to perceptions of crime, harassment, stalking and serious assault.
•    the changes allowed respondents to provide a wider picture of the experiences they ad and aim to increase the types of crime respondents can report and locations where they occurred. E.g., changes to cyber questions. 
•    other changes, such as the removal of the word ‘forced’ from questions relating to rape ensures the survey is in line with current thinking and legislation.  
•    the first findings from these new questions are expected when two years of data have been collected, likely around 2026 at the earliest. 
•    due to COVID, there is a standalone year for the partner abuse module (surveys are typically spread out across two years). Analysts are considering plans on how best to publish this information, likely next year. 

Slide three 

•    over the last year JAS have made good progress in developing a new pooled sample of an exploratory intersectional analysis from the previous nine survey sweeps.
•    this formed the basis of a review of evidence relating to ethnicity in the justice system which was published in April.
•    future project starting in January 2024, involving SGSSS intern, on intersectional analysis in VAWG, e.g., victims who are female and disabled. 
•    project title: Intersectional Analysis of the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey: Violence Against Women and Girls
•    the aim of this work is to explore the possibility of a similar analysis of intersectionality of VAWG-related experiences using the pooled sample.
•    will seek to explore whether and in what way women with different diversities and identities experience VAWG and report it, and how this compares to other groups.
•    this is an exploratory project so JAS are unsure what results they will receive. 

Slide four 

•    Police Scotland recorded domestic abuse incidents’ dataset typically published in November but, has been postponed until March 2024. 
•    Police Scotland currently record the age and gender of the victim and suspected perpetrator and the type of crime recorded (if any). New data developments will now mean the ethnicity of the victim and suspected perpetrator is also available. 

Slide five 

•    general police recorded crime data includes crimes under the DASA act. 
•    Police Scotland’s new crime management should be in place by the end of 2023. 
•    under the new system, we need to be clear what data will be recorded on the age, ethnicity and gender of the victim and suspected perpetrator. A domestic abuse flag will be placed on the charge, regardless of if it is a DASA crime.   
•    2024/25 will be the first-year data will be collected consistently across all divisions and therefore, JAS will most likely be able to report on the new data developments in 2026. 

Slide six 

•    the Homicide in Scotland data set comes from a different source to Police Scotland recorded crime. 
•    the data collection can identify if a homicide is a domestic homicide. 
•    the data currently holds information on the age and sex of the victim and suspected perpetrator. 
•    JAS has started to receive recorded ethnicity of victim and suspected perpetrator of domestic homicide and currently holds three years’ worth of data. However, it will take at least five years’ worth of data to report on due to the rarity of domestic homicides. JAS should be able to report on ethnicity in domestic homicides by 2026. 

Reflecting on the examples and wider data held by partners, what data developments are underway in your organisations that will or could improve the evidence base on domestic abuse?

Police Scotland 

Police Scotland are currently rolling out the national crime system which will be concluded by the end of the year. The new system will provide opportunities for better data capture on crime related incidents. 

Police Scotland will continue to record domestic incidents on iVPD (interim Vulnerable Person’s Database), this system also records no-crime incidents –e.g., domestic argument. It is important that this element of the system is retained because typically, research shows that often multiple incidents take place before domestic abuse is reported to the police and on occasions when a ‘no crime’ incident is revisited it can in fact lead to criminality being reported. One of the purposes of iVPD is to share data with partner agencies. 

Police Scotland have introduced Power-Bi-Dashboards, including data capture from iVPD which includes domestic abuse. The content of the data will be beneficial within a Local Policing setting.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service 

COPFS published their annual statistics on domestic abuse and stalking charges reported by police to prosecutors, on 12 September 2023. These are available publicly as Official Statistics. 

Scottish Government 

The Scottish Law Commission has a project underway on civil remedies against domestic abuse.   The Scottish Government will provide the Commission with figures, from the Civil Justice Statistics bulletin, on the number of cases relating to civil protection orders against domestic abuse dealt with by the civil courts.  

What do you think the evidence gaps are in your organisations? And for policy development in general? 

Data on Ethnic Minorities 

Scottish Government, JAS and Police Scotland expressed the view that there is a lack of information on the ethnicity of both the victim and perpetrator in incidences of domestic abuse and domestic homicide. 

JAS highlighted that the sample sizes of data held on minority ethnic women’s experience of domestic violence is often too small to allow for further statistical analysis, and therefore there is a larger need for research on lived experience to address some of the gaps in relation to the experiences of minority ethnic victims/survivors. 

Some of these challenges will hopefully be rectified by the development of Police Scotland’s recording system.  

It is anticipated that qualitative research on South Asian Women and domestic abuse will be published in the new year.

The roundtable could potentially go to other groups and ask for information on ethnic minorities, this could be run by Scottish Government Equalities VAWG team. 

Data on LGBT

Police Scotland discussed the under reporting of domestic abuse in relation to LGBT individuals. There is a desire to improve public trust and confidence and increase reporting. 

What can we do collectively to plug the gaps, or what opportunities might there be down the road to improve the systematic collection of data and evidence on domestic abuse?

Scottish Government 

The Scottish Government agreed that they could explore the information held in MiCase on lived experience of domestic abuse and whether it might provide a useful source of qualitative data (subject to GDPR rules). 

The Scottish Government expressed a desire to take a more collaborative and strategic approach to identifying research priorities and projects e.g., SG internship research projects. 

The Scottish Legal Aid Board’s annual report provides useful information on, for example, how much legal aid expenditure relates to family cases (where domestic abuse is often raised as an issue).

The Scottish Government are looking into a national marketing campaign on the reporting of domestic abuse in LGBT individuals. The Scottish Government have insightful stakeholders who would be willing to assist on the issue of lack of data on LGBT domestic abuse. 

Justice Analytical Services

JAS is currently working on an evidence review on the experiences of racially minoritised women and their experiences of domestic abuse and barriers to support. This is a being conducted by a PhD internship. it is intended that the report will be published alongside the Equally Safe Refresh Strategy [this has since been put back to the New Year to allow sufficient time to reflect on the findings and the implications for policy]. 

During the “16 Days” period, a grant-funded research report will be published South Asian women’s experiences of domestic abuse and justice in Scotland [this is now scheduled to be published in Jan].


LGBT Young Scotland ran a consultation last year on domestic abuse experienced by LGBTQ+ victims/survivors. The consultation had a relatively small sample size but identified trends and contained recommendations for the Scottish Government and Police Scotland.  

Police Scotland 

The Victim Survivor feedback process was developed by Police Scotland with insight from third sector organisations and launched in May 2023. This will allow victims and survivors of domestic abuse, rape, and sexual crime to provide anonymous feedback to Police Scotland. Any learning identified will be used to shape policies and practice and cascaded through internal governance forums.

Police Scotland continue to work with internal and external partners to increase reporting in seldom heard communities including LBGT community and work is underway for the 16 days of activism.

Develop, in the longer term, a more systematic approach to data collection and dissemination, focusing upon developing the link between policy and analytic teams. 

Data Mapping Tool 

The Scottish Government will develop a data mapping tool which will record the developments in domestic abuse research and publications, including a calendar of publications. Roundtable members will be encouraged to update the tool with their key publications/datasets. This will help the group to identify data gaps and map out developments to inform research priorities going forward and will provide the Scottish Government with a better understanding of the work being carried out in the justice arena. 

Conclusions and observations 

The roundtable will solely involve justice partners, and not third sector partners, for the time being. 

Within the context of the roundtable, the group will use the term “sex,” rather than alternate between “sex” and “gender,” in future discussions as “sex” is the protected characteristic laid out in the Equality Act 2010. When presenting data, the group will be mindful to reflect what data has been collected.

The roundtable should ensure it does not cross over and fulfil the objectives of other domestic abuse forum groups. It should remain aware of the work being completed by these groups. Partners have been asked to inform the group of any lived experience panels, reference groups or similar programmes that they are involved in to allow the group to have a central record of these to avoid overburdening some groups. 

Roundtable discussions will be held quarterly. 

Next steps/actions 

  • Police Scotland will get more information and send roundtable members an update on Power-Bi-Dashboards.  
  • Scottish Government will work on data mapping tool template and send out to roundtable members. Aim is to have this sent out before the end of this year or, at the latest, before the next roundtable discussion. 
  • Roundtable members to consider Terms of Reference. 
  • Scottish Government and Judicial Institute for Scotland to make amendments to the Terms of Reference.  
  • SG will share JAS’s PowerPoint presentation with the Scottish Law Commission. 
  • Roundtable members to consider where there might be data gaps.
  • Police Scotland will send a paragraph to roundtable members on the domestic abuse working group and forum.  
  • Scottish Government will draft a note for this meeting. 
  • Roundtable members will make amendments to the note. 
  • Scottish Government will send the notes of this meeting to the Cabinet Secretary and Criminal Justice Committee. 


The COPFS statistics and accompanying data tables are available at Domestic abuse and stalking charges in Scotland | COPFS. 

The LGBT Youth Scotland peer consultation report is available at Launch: Voices Unheard - Peer Consultation 2022 | LGBT Youth Scotland | LGBT Youth Scotland. 

Power Bi Dashboard 

Police Scotland Demand and Productivity unit was formed in 2019 after the completion of the Demand, Productivity and Performance Project. 

As part of the project a suite of analytical Power BI dashboards in relation to Crime, VPD (Vulnerable persons database), and Incidents were created - used to inform both the analytical community and operational policing. 

The dashboards are used to exhibit interactive management information and constantly evolve alongside the new tools and visuals available. As a result, the DPU created a refreshed incident dashboard; merging the previous Incident Heat map and Incident Volume dashboards.

Police Scotland continue to review our products and identify those that will benefit from Power BI developments.

Performance will continue to be managed within the Analysis and Performance Unit (APU) and Planning and Performance Officers will be working with Divisional representatives to develop and enhance ongoing performance reporting.

This new capability aims to evidence and understand the true demands on our service with an initial focus on front line policing where the majority of our resources are committed. 

This will support evidence based decision making across the organisation informing our approach to resource distribution, deployment and organisational change.

Domestic Abuse Forum (DAF)

The purpose of the Domestic Abuse Forum (DAF) is to discuss and inform Police Scotland’s strategic direction for the business area and convey the strategic direction into tactical and operational delivery across the organisation, whilst supporting delivery of the Scottish Governments Equally Safe Strategy and Delivery Plan.  The remit of the DAF is to support victims and survivors, prevent harm and secure justice, and to ensure trust and confidence.  The DAF takes place quarterly and is chaired by Detective Chief Superintendent for Specialist Crime Division, Head of Public Protection.  It is attended by a number of statutory and non-statutory partners at strategic level who provide written and/or verbal updates to members.  Local Policing Divisions (LPDs) are represented by a Superintendent/Detective Superintendent. 

Domestic Abuse Working Group (DAWG)

The Domestic Abuse Working Group (DAWG) is the tactical group which meets quarterly a week following the DAF.  Its purpose is to translate the strategic direction from the DAF into tactical and operational delivery across the organisation. The meeting is chaired by Detective Chief Inspector for Specialist Crime Division, Public Protection within Domestic Abuse Coordination Unit. Local Policing Divisions (LPDs) and specialist divisions are represented by an officer of Inspector rank.  The meeting replicates the structure of the DAF with actions aligned to the key focus areas of Policing 2026 – Our 10-year Strategy for Policing in Scotland.  

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