Domestic abuse: justice partners group - Scottish criminal justice response to incidents of domestic abuse

Accompanying paper from Cabinet Secretary of Justice and Home Affairs to Criminal Justice Committee on 30 October 2023.

The Scottish criminal justice response to incidents of domestic abuse (October 2023) 


The Scottish Government’s Justice Vision for a just, safe, and resilient Scotland sets out that justice services must be person centred, ensuring that a person’s needs and values are respected. That aim has helped to shape the development of the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill which embeds trauma-informed practice across the justice system and requires criminal justice agencies to make efforts to reduce re-traumatisation. 

More widely, Scotland’s Equally Safe Strategy to tackle violence against women and girls sets out a vision to prevent violence from occurring in the first place, build the capability and capacity of support services, and strengthen the justice response to victims and perpetrators. That focus has been supported by the report from the Women’s Justice Leadership Panel which was clear that women’s experience of justice is different to men’s, and policy must be formulated with greater understanding of gender and intersectionality.

Tackling incidents of domestic abuse has been and continues to be a priority for the Scottish Government and its justice partners which is evidenced by our focus on policy and legislation. Indeed, our collective endeavours have been recognised internationally, most recently in Iceland where experts in the field gathered to share experience and research, and to learn lessons as we all grapple with the unacceptable societal problem which is domestic abuse.

However, we recognise that there is more that can be done and that there are areas where improvement must take place, recognising the need to  scrutinise and review  the effectiveness of existing legislative interventions, the time taken for cases to progress through the court process and the experiences of those who interact with our justice system and support services.

Priority areas of activity

The scope of work around domestic abuse is considerable with the key policy priorities being:

  • progressing the Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Act 2021 to ensure its effective and sustainable implementation across Scotland
  • supporting the taskforce to lead the development of Scotland’s first national multi-agency Domestic Homicide Review model, including its future rollout and evaluation
  • managing the Victim-Centred Approach Fund and Victims Surcharge Funding which includes funding for specialist support for survivors of gender-based violence, with a key focus on long term sustainability and an assessment of the best funding model going forward
  • future development of the Caledonian system, including accreditation and evaluation
  • justice partners roundtable discussion to coordinate our collective response to recent research and evaluation reports in conjunction with a broader look across the domestic abuse policy landscape to understand where there are areas for development

Justice partners roundtable discussion

This new development brings together the Justice partners which considered the implementation of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. That group has already met to consider the response to the recent review reports and agreed that these justice organisations work together through further roundtable discussions to provide regular and collective updates on the work that is being progressed and considered to tackle domestic abuse.  Membership of the group comprises representatives from COPFS, Police Scotland, Judicial Institute for Scotland and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. 

Key areas of focus for the Scottish Government to be discussed in that group over the next 12 months includes:

Improving the evidence base 

  • consider the data issues arising through the Women’s Justice Leadership Panel, including research to consider evidence on protected characteristics and intersectionality
  • map out current data provision across the Justice sector and third sector partners on VAWG with a view to developing in the longer term a more systematic approach to data collection and dissemination

Improving victim experience 

  • more visibly demonstrate the Scottish Government’s cohesive approach within the Justice system to improve the experience of domestic abuse victims
  • work with justice partners to respond to the recommendations contained in the recent reports on domestic abuse reflecting changes which can be made to improve victim experience
  • consideration of developments to improve the interaction between the civil and criminal justice systems and their approach to domestic abuse issues
  • consider any early recommendations arising from the project to explore an expansion of the role of independent domestic abuse advocates

Tackling perpetrators 

  • explore targeted programmes that examine and understand the root causes of domestic violence; and identify linked preventative action
  • explore synergies with Intimate Partner Violence Interventions in Prisons
  • progress with accreditation and evaluation actions for the Caledonian system
  • look at the justice landscape around domestic abuse offending with a view to seeing what more we could be done to address perpetration

Improving multi agency working

  • promote a shared understanding of domestic abuse across Justice agencies
  • support consistent trauma informed training and implementation of the Knowledge and Skills Framework
  • develop a model of multi-agency Domestic Homicide Review in Scotland

Early intervention/prevention and changing societal attitudes

  • increase the public understanding of incidences and the nature of domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG and examine the role that education and awareness campaigns can and should play in supporting early intervention and prevention
  • consider the development of a marketing approach and associated communications strategy on VAWG
  • explore some of the key challenges on online harms and VAWG

This group will also provide a forum to discuss emerging initiatives including any proposals around future legislation; and will expect to engage with stakeholders and those with lived experience as part of their consideration, as appropriate. 

Terms of reference for the group are under development and will be shared when available.

Criminal Justice Division
Justice Directorate
Scottish Government
October 2023

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