Domestic Homicide Review Taskforce minutes: December 2022

Minutes from the first meeting of the group on 8 December 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Anna Donald – Chair (Criminal Justice Division, SG)
  • Alice Nottage (Victim Support Scotland)
  • Ann Fehilly (ASSIST)
  • Ann Hayne (NHS Lanarkshire)
  • Carole Robinson (SARCS Policy, SG)
  • Deborah Demick (National Homicide Unit, COPFS)
  • Faith Curry (Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit, COPFS)
  • Fiona Drouet (EmilyTest)
  • Fiona Wardell (Healthcare Improvement Scotland)
  • Iris Quar (Abused Men in Scotland (AMIS))
  • Irma Arts (Justice Analytical Services, SG)
  • James Rowlands (University of Sussex)
  • Jeff Gibbons (Criminal Justice Division, SG)
  • John McLaughlin (Alcohol and Drugs Partnerships, SG)
  • John Mulholland (Law Society of Scotland)
  • Karyn McCluskey (Community Justice Scotland)
  • Katie Brown (COSLA)
  • Laura Mahon (Alcohol Focus Scotland)
  • Lorraine Gillies (Scottish Community Safety Network)
  • Lucy MacDonald (SafeLifes)
  • Marsha Scott (Scottish Women’s Aid)
  • Michael Crook (Drugs Policy, SG)
  • Moira Price (Victims and Witnesses Policy Team, COPFS)
  • Nel Whiting (Equalities, SG)
  • Sam Faulds (Police Scotland)
  • Stacey Reid (Criminal Justice Division, SG)
  • Tamsyn Wilson (Justice Analytical Services, SG)
  • Tim Beyer (Equalities, SG)
  • Vicky Carmichael (Criminal Justice Division, SG)


  • Iona Colvin (Chief Social Worker)
  • Kate Wallace (Victim Support Scotland)

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

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

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

Scene setting

AD set out the current position which included the following key points:

  • key focus for establishing the taskforce is to consider the steps which can be taken to prevent deaths occurring, and that we have a duty to learn from these when they do unfortunately occur
  • the range of organisations invited onto the taskforce reflects the commitment to take a multi-agency approach to developing a Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) model for Scotland
  • through this work we are looking to develop a model to review the circumstances that lead to domestic homicides, learn lessons and importantly identify where change is needed, with a focus on learning and prevention, and ensuring a voice is given to those who died and to their families
  • AD reflected on the 16 Days of Action currently taking place to end gender based violence and the prevention of violence against women and girls. The theme this year is Unite and asked attendees to keep that theme in mind when working together to build the review model for Scotland
  • AD thanked members again for being a part of the taskforce and for helping us to take this important work forward

Vicky Carmichael (VC) provided further background. The key points are set out below:

  • in looking at DHR models elsewhere, there are some similarities but also a lot of variation across the different jurisdictions. Part of the variation is around the purpose – some focus on systematic change and improvement, others focus on memorialising those who have been killed and some look to do both. The purpose is really important and is something the taskforce needed to consider
  • there is also variation under the term “domestic”. It can include partner/ex-partner, children both under and over 16 years old, wider family members, bystanders, those who have completed suicide following domestic abuse and near misses. There will be a wide range of views across taskforce members on what the scope of our model should be which we will need to work through
  • the term ‘domestic’ is being used to describe our model due to the wording in the Equally Safe commitment but also to ensure an open and evidence based approach is taken and that through the expertise of those of the tand wider, we can work through what our model will include
  • the commitment within the Equally Safe Delivery Plan to develop a DHR model, also commits to looking at other jurisdictions. Research has been carried out on a number of international jurisdictions DHR models which will be covered in more detail shortly
  • despite taking some time to reach this stage, we are pleased we are now in a position to make progress on this work. However, it is important to try and manage expectations, to recognise that this will take some time to get it right, and to make sure the model is robust and fit for purpose
  • AD reiterated that it has taken a while for us to get to this point and there is an urgency and need for pace to move forward, however, in order to do that robustly and in an evidenced based way, we need to make sure that the pace is right in order to get to the right end point and build the right model for Scotland

Comments and questions from attendees included the following:

  • Ann Hayne (AH) queried if there was a specific reason for the delay in a DHR model other than the pandemic? It was advised the delay was mainly due to the pandemic, a combination of other work priorities and staffing resource also impacted on the delay
  • Karyn McCluskey (KM) suggested setting a time frame to help drive the pace as there is already a huge level of expertise within Scotland to which AD agreed and can discuss what that timescale can be at a later stage which could be included within the terms of reference

Terms of reference

VC spoke to the draft terms of reference and highlighted the following key points:

  • membership – still waiting for confirmation of membership from Director of Public Health, and mental health – hope to have those confirmed by the next meeting
  • attendees were asked if they think any organisations/individuals are missing from the membership. As work progresses there may be a need to bring others in such as the Information Commissioner’s Office
  • reference group – to be established to sit beneath the taskforce given the broad, cross cutting nature of the work as it is recognised that there will be a number of organisations that will have an interest. We plan to update the reference group on the work as it progresses and to use the group as a forum to pose questions if there are any particular challenges
  • meeting frequency – propose a quarterly meeting of the taskforce and welcome feedback from others

Initial comments from members included the following:

  • Marsha Scott (MS) called for the model developed for Scotland to be tested prior to roll out in order to make it deliverable
  • MS raised concerns in relation to the size of this group and suggested it should be smaller
  • MS also referenced the Scottish Women’s Aid Conference – An International Lens on Domestic Abuse Killings (September 2022) where there was a lot of information from international experts about the invisibility of women and children killings
  • AD responded by confirming some work already on the ground which could be good for testing and welcomed others’ views around the operational aspects and if there would be any issues with testing a model

Further comments from members included the following:

  • AH reflected that there are a number of reviews operating in practice currently including the internal Police Scotland review following a domestic homicide, as well as Significant Case Reviews which have recently be revised to be more reflective. From an operational perspective, AH highlighted that reviews involving NHS colleagues and managers can be both lengthy and time consuming and asked that SG be mindful of that in the development of the DHR model, particularly when determining what is included within the review scope which will in turn have an impact on the number of reviews that are undertaken
  • Moira Price (MP) asked whether there was an intention to underpin the DHR model with legislation and its impact on timescales. VC outlined that going down a legislative route would add to the timeframe. AD suggested a pilot/test of the model could inform legislation but confirmed that legislation would extend the timeline.
  • Deborah Demick (DD) outlined some of the reviews currently in place, specifically the Child Protection Learning Reviews which have been in place for a year. DD asked about when a DHR model would commence in relation to the death given that there will be a police investigation and consideration would need to be given to the sharing of information which happens as part of a number of reviews
  • Lucy MacDonald (LMac) highlighted the anticipated national MARAC action plan that’s expected in early 2023 – it would be a good opportunity to align these two initiatives given that they are both in relation to high risk domestic abuse. The finer details of the plan are still to be published but it would be useful to think how we can tie the two pieces of work together. LMac also outlined the MARAC dataset that already exists gives an opportunity to support this work
  • Sam Faulds (SF) outlined the internal review process that Police Scotland undertake following every domestic homicide in Scotland and that this is carefully managed and that it can be very challenging

AD summarised key points from discussion on the ToR to include the following:

  • An ask for a time frame to be developed for the work
  • Consensus for a model that would look to take an improvement approach - look to develop and test a model, accepting it may not be the final model as if it is to be legislated for, that would add to the timeline
  • There is a desire to move the work forward quickly and be cognisant of existing work that already takes place
  • Helpful to be aware of operational issues at the start and look to develop in terms of how these are addressed in detail with information sharing being key

Domestic Homicide Review research – phase one

This agenda item was supported by paper 2 to reflect the initial stage of thinking around the development of a DHR model for Scotland which was circulated to members in advance.

Irma Arts (IA) spoke to a presentation and summarised key findings from the report noting that the research is based on a high level review of publicly available information of 17 different jurisdictions including a number of alternative models. 

Comments and questions from members included the following:

  • AH commented on the need to apply a gendered approach to the work and be clear when talking about sex-based data and a gendered analysis of that sex-based data – ensure we are capturing that domestic homicides is mostly perpetrated by men and inflicted upon women.
  • MS highlighted recent research published in Canada on domestic death reviews and that while recognising the research is gendered there is very little on how that is then integrated into the review process – we therefore should learn from this and ensure we are clear in how gender is operating in the context of how we develop the review model in Scotland
  • Alice Nottage (AN) spoke to gaps in evidence – consider meaningful family involvement. VSS have a family reference group that meets quarterly who have been assisting with developments to VSS services and upcoming consultations. Suggested getting them involved with the DHR process later down the line and ask them what meaningful involvement would look like to them – to include that lived experience element
  • IA advised there is acknowledgement of the gendered nature of DHRs but it’s not translated into how they are carried out. James Rowlands (JR) added the issue is often in implementation and highlighted there are examples of good practice in some jurisdictions in Canada but that there was variance particularly at a practical level. JR noted that there was strong evidence of good practice in New Zealand and New South Wales which included looking at the gendered dynamics of these killings. He also noted that in England and Wales there was also some examples of good practice
  • AD agreed it would be helpful to have a focus on those areas that do have good practice
  • IA helpfully shared the following link or those who want to read more on DHRs, especially in relation to the outcomes and recommendations - Resources – Halt 

Domestic Homicide Review research – phase two

Following on from IA’s research, VC spoke to paper 3 which set out proposed next steps. AD outlined that based on the earlier discussion around testing and pace, this may alter the lens in which this next paper is viewed from. 

Members’ attention was drawn to the series of questions in the paper to continue thinking around next steps. Members were asked to consider possible gaps and any additional items/different approaches.

VC advised the next taskforce meeting is likely to be in March 2023 and that between now and then (February time) we are planning to hold a workshop with Healthcare Improvement Scotland to discuss in more detail.

Comments and questions from members included the following:

  • AH suggested being engaged in more work out with taskforce meetings to promote thinking and focus in preparation for the quarterly meetings e.g. forming subgroups
  • MP raised a possible gap – a bubble could be added to ensure there’s intimation to whoever is carrying out the parallel prosecution or death investigation so there are no overlaps and more importantly there’s no risk of prejudice to another ongoing procedure
  • MS suggested giving consideration to the behaviours we want to see change before putting together a process evaluation for a procedure that’s not then linked to those behaviour changes
  • AH suggested adding a parallel pathway that streamlines alongside to engage with the family during the process
  • Katie Brown (KB) stated that COSLA would like to support a deeper dive into the context of some barriers and it would be interesting to know what is stopping change, what isn’t there that needs to be built in at the outset of the process – in parallel to the other work being progressed.
  • Laura Mahon (LM) queried where it talks about recommendations being formulated and implemented – who would be taking the recommendations forward? LM also suggested that due to the nature of the reviews it may be beneficial to have a national peer support network similar to what is in place for the research panel for alcohol death reviews
  • VC advised that who and how the recommendations are taken forward is an unknown at present. In looking at reviews elsewhere this is a common area where there is little evidence in terms of success and therefore it is likely that we will want to explore different review models in addition to DHRs
  • JR advised he could identify some evidence on what good practice looks like including the changes achieved
  • Jeff Gibbons (JG) stated it is important to look at both sides of the diagram. The areas to consider pick up a lot of points members have made and advised it is not just about process but to factor in some of the key issues e.g. transparency, how the family are involved and then consider how to operationalise. JG pointed out the keenness to put timescales around this work but cautioned around setting timescales at this stage and questioned the basis on which the timescale is to be set – wanting it delivered quickly but not reflecting the complexities
  • AD advised one of the key drivers for a timescale is to make quick progress. There is a need to be ambitious whilst remaining realistic about what can be achieved within that timescale
  • AH emphasised the need for a feedback loop to ensure progress was being made and embedded. She was interested to understand how this works where a partnership has responsibility for taking recommendations forward, rather than individual organisations

Agreed actions and next steps

AD summarised the actions and next steps from the meeting:

Action 1: VC to update ToR and circulate to members for further comment. (actioned - responses requested by 20 Jan 2023). Key areas to focus on:

  • timescales: taking account of an improvement approach to test the DHR model and how we can do this quicky whilst ensuring it is realistic
  • how to build on good practice and ensure we are being gender competent. Ensure that the model developed is inclusive. Recognising that the majority of victims are women, and recognising that men can be victims too
  • ensuring we are person centred and trauma informed and that it is embedded throughout the development and implementation of the model
  • membership: consideration of other organisations that should be included in the taskforce
  • frequency of taskforce meetings

Action 2: Consideration to be given to phase 2 of the domestic and international comparator research - deep dive to focus on good practice/case specific – with a look to be more multi-agency in approach.

Action 3: Schedule a workshop before next taskforce meeting to outline the key areas we need to consider for a Scottish DHR model including any gaps we are aware of.

Any other business

  • KM suggested having a data protection/information sharing expert brought in from the start of the process
  • VC advised that there is also a Data Protection Officer in SG who can be brought in as and when required
  • KB suggested having SOLAR to be a part of this work as well

The Chair thanked everyone for their time and participation in a constructive discussion today. Reminder to attendees if there are any issues outwith the meeting then to please get in touch.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will be scheduled for March 2023, date to be confirmed.

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