Domestic Homicide Review Taskforce minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 6 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Anna Donald, Chair, Criminal Justice Division (SG)

  • Ann Fehilly (ASSIST)

  • Ann Hayne, NHS Lanarkshire

  • Carole Robinson, Criminal Justice Division (SG)

  • Faith Curry, Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (COPFS)

  • Fiona Wardell, Healthcare Improvement Scotland

  • Gill Faulds, Police Scotland

  • Iris Quar, Abused Men in Scotland (AMIS)

  • James Rowlands, University of Sussex

  • Jeff Gibbons, Criminal Justice Division (SG)

  • Joanna MacDonald, Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser (SG) 

  • Professor John Devaney, University of Edinburgh 

  • Kathryn Stewart, Drugs Policy (SG) 

  • Katie Brown (COSLA)

  • Lucy MacDonald, SafeLifes

  • Marsha Scott, Scottish Women’s Aid

  • Michael Luff, Criminal Justice Division (SG)

  • Moira Price, Victims and Witnesses Policy Team (COPFS)

  • Nada Walker, National Services Scotland

  • Nel Whiting, Equality Unit (SG)

  • Sam Faulds, Police Scotland

  • Tamsyn Wilson, Justice Analytical Services (SG)

  • Vicky Carmichael, Criminal Justice Division (SG)

  • Zain Kurdi, University of Edinburgh


  • Alice Nottage, Victim Support Scotland
  • Claire Houghton, University of Edinburgh
  • David Thomson, Equality Unit (SG)
  • Deborah Demick, National Homicide Unit (COPFS)
  • Emma Fletcher, NHS Tayside
  • Fiona Drouet, EmilyTest
  • Giri Polubothu, Shakti Women’s Aid
  • John McLaughlin, Alcohol and Drugs Partnerships (SG)
  • John Mulholland, Law Society of Scotland
  • Julie Lusk, Directorate for Mental Health (SG)
  • Karyn McCluskey, Community Justice Scotland
  • Kate Wallace, Victim Support Scotland
  • Laura Mahon, Alcohol Focus Scotland
  • Lorraine Gillies, Scottish Community Safety Network
  • Lynne Taylor, Directorate for Mental Health (SG)
  • Vivian Thomson, Children and Families (SG) 

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

Anna Donald (AD) welcomed members to the third meeting of the Domestic Homicide Review Taskforce. 

AD outlined to members that some of what would be discussed in terms of subject matter might be difficult and sensitive. Emphasising the importance of everyone’s wellbeing she invited members to take time out and look after themselves as required.      

Members were asked to introduce themselves in turn and apologies were noted. 

AD provided a brief summary of the purpose of the Taskforce for the benefit of new members, which included:

  • developing a Domestic Homicide Review model for Scotland as part of the Scottish Government’s approach to tackling violence against women and children
  • recognising the need for an inclusive approach: men can be victims of domestic homicide
  • taking a multi-agency approach to review the circumstances that led to a domestic homicide, from which we can learn lessons, identify where change is needed with a view to preventing further deaths; and
  • ensuring that a voice is given to those who have been killed and to their families

Chair’s update

AD provided an update on progress since the previous meeting of the Taskforce on 30 March. 

New ministers

Scottish Government officials had provided an overview of the work of the Taskforce to the incoming Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs and the Minister for Victims and Community Safety.  Plans to carry out a programme of targeted engagement over the course of the Summer had also been relayed to the Cabinet Secretary as well as the composition of the Taskforce.    


Vicky Carmichael (VC) had sent a comprehensive and detailed email to members in May which set out the wide range of work being undertaken and sought views on various matters.  AD highlighted key progress which included:

  • creation of a Domestic Homicide Review page on the Scottish Government website.  This provides an overview of the work, remit and membership of the Taskforce.  Key documents, such as minutes of meetings, will be published to ensure this work is as open and transparent as possible. Members were asked to signpost colleagues and networks to the webpage whenever possible
  • a collection of research papers to help inform Taskforce’s evidence base to date was published on 31 May. The package of evidence includes the international comparator research which was shared at the first Taskforce meeting; the questionnaire findings and DHR workshop report which were shared at the second Taskforce meeting and a paper by Taskforce member John Devaney on learning from other DHR models on ensuring robust recommendations and ensuring implementation of them. The package of evidence will be added to as work to develop the model progresses
  • a Reference Group had been established. The group will be used to gather wider thoughts, views or examples of good practice or issues members  may be grappling with. It also provides a useful way to keep wider partners aware of the work underway
  • a revised governance chart and narrative to explain the reporting structures had been circulated. Work was underway to set up the subgroup to develop the Scottish DHR model which Professor  Devaney had agreed to chair.  Nada Walker  provides project management support
  • further consideration has been given to the high level descriptors that relate to the scope of the Scottish model.  These would be used during the targeted engagement work planned over the summer

Forthcoming work

AD highlighted that this work was entering a particularly busy time due to the targeted engagement and establishment of the subgroup. As such, a fluid approach may be required which could place increased demands on members’ time.  In order to keep this work on track AD asked members to make the policy team aware of any potential challenges they may face. This would allow the timetable to be adjusted if required.

Minutes and actions

Members approved the minutes of the second meeting. These would be published on the Taskforce webpage.    

The actions from the second meeting had all been completed. Given the amount of business to be covered, James Rowlands would deliver his presentation on involving perpetrators in the DHR  process at a future meeting.     

Terms of reference

AD thanked members for their comments on the updated terms of reference. 

VC outlined the revisions made the following suggestions during the second meeting of the Taskforce. These had included:

  • updated wording around the purpose of the Taskforce
  • adding a definitions section
  • setting what is out of the Taskforce scope
  • handling conflict of interest
  • including a section to outline what was not within the scope of the Taskforce
  • clarification about contacting the secretariat in the event of media interest  

Members were content to approve the terms of reference. AD noted that this document would be reviewed and updated as work progressed.  

Marsha Scott (MS) questioned the name of the model and suggested an alternative could be used such as domestic “deaths” rather than domestic “homicides”.  VC clarified that “homicides” was the term used in the Equally Safe Delivery Plan and was the terminology used and recognised internationally.  Moira Price (MP) advised that by using the term “homicides” this adequately covered both murder and culpable homicide from a legal perspective.  John Devaney (JD) and VC added that it would be premature to change this terminology until the scope of the model had been agreed. 

AD confirmed that for the reasons outlined, the name of the model would remain as it is currently but that this would be revisited once the scope of the model was defined. 

Current review landscape in Scotland

AD drew attention to the draft paper and diagram that Michael Luff (ML) had produced to increase members’ understanding of the range of review processes that operate in Scotland.  This would ensure that a Scottish DHR model was cognisant of multi-agency capacity and highlight where there might be potential for joint reviews, for example in relation to children. 

AD asked if the material produced accurately captured what each process covered; whether there were any omissions; what learning we could take from existing reviews to inform the DHR model and whether there might be scope for joint working.  

AD asked whether members had views of what models/ processes could be looked at in further detail in terms of lessons learned or any which stood out as ones in particular that our model might interact with.

  • Ann Fehilly (AF) advised that drug-related deaths were missing. Kathryn Stewart would provide details of this review process to ML for inclusion 
  • Ann Hayne (AH) offered that Maracs and Matacs were not justice reviews but rather multi-agency processes. This would be taken on board in the next iteration   
  • Lucy McDonald (LM) added that lessons from Maracs would feed into the DHR process.  A mapping/scoping process was underway and Nel Whiting advised that a questionnaire would issue shortly: a question on DHRs could be included     
  • JD reflected that this was a very helpful paper. He added that it would be useful to know if any of these processes had been evaluated to establish if they were fit for purpose. A further iteration might consider the legal basis the reviews have for sharing information. It would be interesting to learn from issues that others had encountered and what solutions had been successfully implemented.  It was also important to consider the demands placed on agencies in order to ensure they could provide meaningful input into the DHR process    
  • AH suggested that when considering evaluation it was important to consider how actions from reviews were processed and tracked.  She outlined the process and governance within her health board which sought to avoid the same issues appearing in multiple reviews  
  • Sam Faulds (SF) explained that Police Scotland use an action tracking software system to help ensure that all recommendations, tasks and learning assigned to Police Scotland are tracked and their performance is monitored. It provides real time reporting on how well Police Scotland is implementing recommendations. SF said a demonstration of the system could be provided to ML    
  • Iris Quar agreed that the paper offered a great starting point. The focus should be on the practical steps needed to ensure the DHR model could be supported by the key agencies. This could provide a useful baseline when considering the task and finish groups needed    
  • James Rowlands (JR) thought it might be useful to be more explicit about the outputs of each review: for instance was a report published and what level of detail was provided? This would have a bearing if the decision was taken for a joint process with a DHR  
  • LM suggested it would be useful to have a map of what data was held where. This would inform the DHR process and framework around it as well as identifying key trends. MS agreed that this would avoid people having to tell their story multiple times and it would be interesting to see where domestic abuse was missed as part of other review processes 
  • AD suggested there may be more we could do with the data currently available
  • Jeff Gibbons (JG) urged members to consider what was essential rather than aspirational given the timescales the Taskforce was working to 
  • VC reminded the group that the purpose of the paper had been to better understand other review processes. The Task and Finish group looking at joint reviews could consider next steps in terms of additional material that might be needed to inform work

AD summarised that the paper would be further developed in light of the comments raised with further considerations around mapping and how we can make better use of available data.  

AP: ML to follow up with SF/ GF on demonstration of the Police Scotland monitoring system.

AP: ML to revise the landscape paper to take account of comments raised including:

  • feature drug related deaths
  • clarify position of Maracs and Matacs
  • outputs from each review process
  • whether any evaluation had been undertaken on the processes featured

AP: VC to explore the existing data held by Scottish Government and whether that can provide further insight to our work.


AD invited VC to speak to the updated paper on descriptors covering the scope of the DHR model.  This had been previously circulated to members for comment: the name had been changed from “definitions” to “descriptors” to distinguish this from legal definitions.  

VC re-iterated that the descriptors had been further developed following comments at the workshop held in February and the March Taskforce meeting. The agreed descriptors would be used to support the targeted engagement work planned for the summer. Key changes made included:

  • wording for “intimate partner/ex-partner” now included adolescent relationships
  • in relation to suicides wording had been changed to “link” recognising that it could be difficult to establish if domestic abuse had been a direct cause of a suicide
  • referring to children as 18 years or under (using the UNCRC definition).  There was a question over whether this captured children related to the victim or any other child that happened to be present at the time of death.  The revised descriptor included the death all children within this context 
  • bystander death now extended to include a victim’s new partner and “abuse” had been added       

Members provided the following reflections:


  • AH advised that the “suicide” descriptor should refer to where a “victim” has died rather than “person”.  This would avoid confusion with cases of homicide-suicide 
  • in relation to suicides Faith Curry (FC) cautioned that if we decided to include suicides there should be clear parameters around if domestic abuse had been a contributing factor at the time of death as opposed to establishing a historic link.  Careful thought would be needed to avoid re-traumatising families.   A clear definition was key      
  • JD referred to work undertaken by Medway Council in England to review suicides from the previous year which found a third of suicides completed within a year had some record of domestic abuse.  There could therefore be a danger in casting the net too wide and the system losing sight of what it was designed to do.  Conversely a recent study covering England and Wales had found that suicide as a result of domestic abuse was still under recognised.  It is important to consider under what circumstances a suicide would be captured in a DHR process to strike the right balance and ensure integrity to the review   
  • MS highlighted the work of Professor Jane Monkton-Smith in relation to suicide and that we should be looking to build on that for our model
  • JR agreed and added that in England and Wales they referred to the suicide being “somehow traceable” to domestic abuse.  There were questions about timeframe and evidence
  • SF suggested clarity around the wording around homicide-suicides.  It should be clear that this related to a partner or ex-partner
  • SF highlighted that Police Scotland have management information on the number of suicides where domestic abuse has been reported. She stated that the numbers were low and outlined the process undertaken where there has been a suicide. AD asked whether the management information could be shared and SF agreed this could be shared with the Taskforce but noted that it was management information and was not validated

Familial homicide

  • Lucy McDonald added familial homicide could be another area where the net could be cast too wide and detract from the purpose of a DHR
  • clarity was needed around familial homicide: it could be understood to be children killing parents for instance rather than being focused on family wipe out 
  • JR pointed out that language in England and Wales refers to adults 
  • AH suggested changes to the wording around familial homicide to take out the word “domestic” before abuse as it was problematic

Bystander homicide

  • terminology should capture the death of those close to the victim
  • Nel Whiting added that it would be helpful to revisit “bystander” death.  “Intervening” in the context of violence against women and girls meant something very specific and an alternative should be found 
  • JR reflected on “bystander death”: that other review models have tried to distinct between someone being targeted because they were or perceived to be in a relationship with the victim as opposed to those who are targeted because they were offering help 
  • in terms of “bystander” it would be helpful to consider an alternative term such as additional or collateral homicide 

Additional points raised

  • the descriptors needed to cover the dynamics of cases where domestic abuse had been a factor 
  • Deborah Demick (DM) highlighted that it would be useful to learn from England and Wales in terms of its DHRs while recognising the different functions in relation to Crown Office and the Coronial model. DM thought it would be helpful to learn from colleagues in the Coroners Office. AD highlighted that this would be a helpful addition to the review landscape paper
  • MS highlighted cases where sons kill mothers: this was not domestic abuse but violence against women. When femicide was committed by a family member in honour based killings this was more blurry. A discussion was needed around this although she recognised this was not for the descriptor exercise to bottom out     

AD concluded by stating that the descriptors would be revised and recirculated for comment. The discussion had raised some interesting points that could be taken forward in the context of the targeted engagement work particularly around suicides.     

VC added that a task and finish group would consider suicides and this aspect of the model might take longer to develop.

AP: ML to reflect the relevant processes in England and Wales to the landscape paper including the Coroner’s Office.

AP: SF to share management information on suicides where domestic abuse had been reported prior to the death.

AP: VC to revise and recirculate the descriptors. 

Targeted engagement

AD outlined that the purpose of the engagement was to explore where there was consensus and/or gaps in knowledge about key aspects of the DHR model.  She encouraged members to offer suggestion of networks and partners that should be  approached to provide their views.  A high level plan had been circulated previously.  

Fiona Wardell (FW) outlined that a trauma-informed approach taken to ensure informed, meaningful participation. Engagement packs would allow those with lived experience to be supported by organisations who had a trusted relationship with them. There would be a range of ways for people to take part to ensure geographical spread and which would recognise potential digital exclusion. People would be clear why they were being asked for their views (we would avoid asking what we already know and what we can gather from elsewhere) and what we would do with the information gathered. Ethical considerations had been considered.  Participants would be made aware how their views had shaped the development of the model. 

Following conclusion of the targeted engagement, a report would be produced by Zain Kurdi, which will be brought to the next meeting of the Taskforce and used to shape the development of the model.   

Members made the following observations:

  • LM suggested that thought should be given to aftercare for those with lived experience who participate.  Compensation/payment may be worth considering.  SafeLives were producing principles of engagement with the Improvement Service and could provide advice      

AP: Members to provide contact details for any groups/individuals the Policy Team should approach to take part in the targeted engagement work.

Model Development Subgroup

AD invited JD to provide an update as Chair of the Model Development Subgroup. JD emphasised the importance of building a robust model and welcomed feedback from the engagement exercise. Whilst recognising there were some difficult issues to resolve, for example, around information sharing, that would not stop work progressing and thought would be given to potential case selection, defining the terms of reference for a review right through to considering how best to implement and follow up on recommendations made. 

The subgroup would be small and would report into the Taskforce. Core members were likely to include representatives from Police Scotland, COPFS, third sector victim support organisations and those from the health sector.  It was important that representatives had capacity to attend monthly meetings and undertake work in between these.  Representatives should have the necessary authority to feed into development and ensure this would work for their respective organisations.    

JD planned to undertake a series of meetings over the summer to better understand the views of key agencies.  He would explore aspirations for the DHR process, how a DHR model would work in respect of their interests and any “red lines” or difficulties.  Invitations asking for nominations would follow shortly.  John set out a high level plan for the first three meetings of the subgroup. The first of which would clarify key tasks and remit; then reflecting on the meetings held with key agencies and consider models operating in other jurisdictions before reflecting on the output of the targeted engagement exercise which would inform the development of the model.

Members comments included:

  • Katie Brown reminded JD that COSLA could offer strategic and multi-agency support 

AD thanked JD for a clear summary. She offered to approach senior leaders across Justice to garner support and encourage buy-in for this work if required.

Project management

Nada Walker (ND) gave an overview of the project management documentation that would be used going forward. There would be reports to record progress and ND would bring a paper to the next Taskforce meeting on the risk management approach to be taken.     


AD invited VC to speak to the revised timeline that had been issued.  VC highlighted that although work would start over the summer to gather views which would in turn be used to develop the model, it was unlikely that the model would be developed by the end of the year. JD had mentioned earlier there were a range of issues to address, such as information governance, which would not be resolved within this timescale.  

AD acknowledged it was essential to get this right and endorsed the approach suggested.

Any other business

The Chair drew attention to item 12 of the agenda and flagged up the research articles that may be of interest to members. There was no other business raised by members. AD thanked everyone for their time and participation. 

Action point

ML to follow up with SF/ GF on demonstration of Police Scotland monitoring system.

Action point

ML to revise the landscape paper to take account of comments raised including:

  • feature drug related deaths
  • clarify position of Maracs and Matacs
  • outputs from each review process
  • whether any evaluation had been undertaken on the processes featured

Action point

VC to explore the existing data held by Scottish Government and whether that can provide further insight to our work.

Action point

ML to reflect the relevant processes in England and Wales to the landscape paper including the Coroner’s Office.

Action point

SF to share management information on suicides where domestic abuse had been reported prior to the death.

Action point

VC to revise and recirculate the descriptors. 

Action point

Members to provide contact details for any groups/individuals the Policy Team should approach to take part in the targeted engagement work.

Date of the next meeting

A date for the next meeting would be circulated in due course.

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