Domestic Homicide Review Taskforce minutes: November 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 30 November 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Anna Donald, Chair, Criminal Justice Division (SG)
  • Faith Curry, Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (COPFS)
  • Martin McLean, Police Scotland
  • Ann Hayne, NHS Lanarkshire
  • Laura Mahon, Alcohol Focus Scotland
  • Katie Brown (COSLA)
  • Karyn McCluskey, Community Justice Scotland
  • Marsha Scott, Scottish Women’s Aid
  • Alice Nottage, Victim Support Scotland
  • Ann Fehilly (ASSIST)
  • Fiona Drouet, EmilyTest
  • Iris Quar, Abused Men in Scotland (AMIS)
  • Jess Denniff, SafeLives
  • Khatidja Chantler, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • John Devaney, University of Edinburgh
  • Zain Kurdi, University of Edinburgh
  • Kate Holliday, University of Edinburgh
  • Susan Carsley, Justice Analytical Services (SG)
  • Rod Finan, Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser (SG)
  • Lynne Taylor, Directorate for Mental Health (SG)
  • Tamsyn Wilson, Justice Analytical Services (SG)
  • Jeff Gibbons, Criminal Justice Division (SG)
  • Vicky Carmichael, Criminal Justice Division (SG)
  • Carole Robinson, Criminal Justice Division (SG)
  • Laura-Isabella Muresanu, Criminal Justice Division (SG)
  • Jude Thomson, Criminal Justice Division (SG)
  • Mary Lynch, Criminal Justice Division (SG)


  • Emma Fletcher, NHS Tayside
  • Deborah Demick, National Homicide Unit (COPFS)
  • Emma Forbes, Victims and Witnesses Policy Team (COPFS)
  • Giri Polubothu, Shakti Women’s Aid
  • Fiona Wardell, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  • James Rowlands, University of Westminster
  • Claire Houghton, University of Edinburgh
  • Lorraine Gillies, Scottish Community Safety Network
  • Vivien Thomson, Social Work Scotland
  • John Mulholland, Law Society of Scotland
  • Joanna MacDonald, Social Work Advisor (SG) 
  • Kate Wallace, Victim Support Scotland
  • Michael Crook, Drugs Policy (SG)
  • Nel Whiting, Equality Unit (SG) 

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

Anna Donald (AD) welcomed members to the fourth 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.  

Chair’s update 

AD provided an update on progress since the previous meeting of the Taskforce on 6 June 2023: 

  • the targeted engagement to inform the development of a Domestic Homicide Review model for Scotland took place between 1 September – 30 October 2023. The Domestic Homicide Review Policy Team worked with a number of partners on the development of the questions and engagement pack to make sure it was clear, concise, person centred and trauma informed. There were 235 responses received from those with lived experience of domestic abuse, those bereaved by abuse, those working in the sector, and those working in the sector who also have lived experience or have been bereaved. The findings would be covered by Zain Kurdi (ZK) later in the agenda
  • the Model Development Subgroup was established in September 2023 and has since met three times. Vicky Carmichael (VC) and John Devaney (JD) met with senior representatives of a number of organisations ahead of the first meeting of the Model Development Subgroup to understand their hopes and aspirations for the model, as well as any areas that would require particular attention in the development of the model
  • VC and Gillian Faulds (GF) from Police Scotland presented at the European Conference on Domestic Violence in Iceland on the work taken forward to develop Scotland’s Domestic Homicide Review Model
  • the South Australian Minister for Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Katrine Hildyard, visited and met with the Minister for Victims and Community Safety. Katrine Hildyard later attended a roundtable with officials to hear more on the Scottish Government’s work in relation to Domestic Homicide Reviews and the wider work being taken forward to tackle violence against women and girls, including Scotland’s Domestic Abuse legislation. A further meeting was arranged in January 2024
  • Kate Holliday (KH) recently started as an intern in Justice Analytical Services. KH will be working in the Scottish Government for three months on a series of evidence briefings to further develop our evidence base to help shape the model. Kate is currently working on developing JD’s paper on embedding learning following a review
  • the Equally Safe Joint Strategic Board met in November 2023 and were provided with an update on the work of the Taskforce with an offer to keep them updated at appropriate intervals as the work progresses
  • the Domestic Homicide Review Policy Team, alongside JD, met with colleagues in Northern Ireland to hear from the DHR Team and Chairs on their model
  • colleagues are meeting with colleagues in the United States and Canada in November and December 2023 to learn more about specific aspects of their models. which will be very helpful in forming our thinking

Minutes and actions 

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

Five of the eight actions have been completed. Of the remaining three, two actions related to the landscape mapping paper and are in progress, and one action is on hold – a presentation in relation to perpetrators and the review process. James Rowlands would deliver this presentation at a future meeting.

AD highlighted a change in the approval and publication of minutes. Going forward, to ensure transparency and timeliness, officials will share a copy of the minutes approximately two weeks following a Taskforce meeting. A further week will be given for any comments before publishing the minutes on the Taskforce website. 

Model Development Subgroup 

AD invited JD to provide an update on the work of the Model Development Subgroup. 

JD highlighted that there have been some very positive discussions over the summer with representatives of key organisations to talk through what the hopes and aspirations are for the model and important design features that the subgroup should be considering. The discussions were also an opportunity for key organisations to raise any concerns or red lines. JD thanked those who had participated in those discussions which had been helpful in understanding what might be possible and what needs to be kept in mind as the work moves forward. 

JD mentioned that the Subgroup had been meeting on a monthly basis since September and had focused initially on ensuring a common understanding of the task that is to be undertaken and what is meant by a Domestic Homicide Review. This included the subgroup having presentations on a number of key and important issues. Latterly the subgroup has started to have initial discussions on some key aspects of the review model such as the scope and family involvement which has been ahead of the subgroup getting into the detailed design of those aspects.

JD also mentioned the research papers that KH will be working on producing during the coming months, and that these will be an important resource for the work of the Subgroup. One key element that the research will focus on are the mechanisms through which learning and recommendations will be taken forward and implemented following a review. This research will be aided by the input of experts from United States and Canada, which have been undertaking domestic homicide and fatalities reviews for some time. JD also noted that there will be continued collaborative working with colleagues from other devolved administrations.

JD outlined the meeting he and VC and colleagues had had with colleagues in London, Cardiff and Belfast. These discussion have focused on what has been learned from implementing their processes and what changes coming down the line that it’d be helpful for us to think about and why these were necessary.

AD thanked JD, Khatidja Chantler and subgroup members for their collective work to date. AD welcomed the work being undertaken to learn from other jurisdictions and from those with models that have been in place for a number of years. AD highlighted that engagement is key in order to ensure that what is designed works from a Scottish perspective and particularly for family members.

Iris Quar (IQ) reflected that the Subgroup has started to work very cohesively, and so far being part of it has been a very positive experience. IQ thanked JD for chairing the group very skilfully. Khatidja Chantler (KC) reinforced IQ’s comments.  

Ann Hayne (AH) asked whether Taskforce members could receive a list of Subgroup members. AD mentioned that the list will be circulated, and further thought will be given to making the work of the Subgroup more visible. 

Marsha Scott (MS) added that it is very important not to forget that the primary outcome of this work is reducing deaths, and not interfering with criminal investigations and legal proceedings. The latter considerations should not trump the primary outcome. MS mentioned that an online vigil is organised during 16 Days of Action for those who have died due to domestic abuse. MS shared the link with Taskforce members.

JD emphasised the need to have a process that is victim-centred and focused on the needs of those who have died and those who have been bereaved, generating learning to strengthen the system going forward to reduce future deaths. JD outlined that the real challenge is creating a system that works and generates that learning as opposed to just being tokenistic and becoming an administrative procedure that organisations have to go through. JD noted that once it’s clear how that learning can be taken forward and implemented, then it would be possible to work backwards and think about designing the system that would produce that type of learning. 

Domestic Homicide Review consultation and targeted engagement 

AD invited Zain Kurdi (ZK) to provide an overview of the analysis from the consultation and targeted engagement.

ZK noted that there were 235 responses, including 31 (13%) individuals with lived experience of domestic abuse or bereaved by abuse, 134 (57%) professionals working in the field of domestic abuse, and 70 (30%) professionals with lived experience working in the field of domestic abuse. 

Of the 235 responses, 173 (74%) participants took part in one of the 28 engagement sessions that were organised, and 62 (26%) by answering individually to the online consultation. The sectors represented in the targeted engagement include social services, health, third sector, justice, housing, education, children’s services, victim support organisations, and local authorities. There were 35 organisational responses. ZK further expanded on the key findings from the consultation and targeted engagement, reminding members that these will be published in a report.

ZK summarised the findings from each of the six themes the consultation and targeted engagement asked respondents. These included: which cases should be reviewed; family and friend involvement; perpetrators’ involvement; information gathering and analysis; reporting and learning and underpinning Scotland’s domestic homicide review model.

AD thanked ZK for her presentation and invited questions and comments from Taskforce members.

AH observed that health would need to be a contributor to any review that takes place. AH reflected that health were not originally included in child protection learning reviews, and there was a recognition that they should be, and similarly for adult protection learning reviews, where health is now considered to be central to the process. JD acknowledged AH’s helpful feedback and noted that this will be taken forward to the Subgroup.

AD reflected on the anonymisation of reports and whether this was possible. She also asked whether information sharing was included in the responses in relation to why legislation would be required. ZK responded that information sharing was a reason provided by respondents as to why the model should be underpinned by legislation. Martin McLean (MM) observed that it is often a significant challenge for Chief Officer Groups making that final decision about publication and trying to anonymise the report in a meaningful way.

Jess Denniff (JDen) asked whether there are any comparable other processes from other countries that the Taskforce could learn from. AD answered that understanding other processes will be one of the first things that the Subgroup will focus on.

KC reflected on perpetrator involvement and that it is important to note that it is possible to involve perpetrators in the review without giving them a voice for example, by noting the service contact that perpetrators have had with mental health, substance use services, children's services or other such services to build up a picture that would enable recommendations focused on intervening with perpetrators at an early enough stage to prevent escalation.

KC also noted in relation to the scope and depending on what the model will focus on, if it were to include wider family members that this would also include honour based abuse. ZK reflected that honour based abuse was a theme within the report findings, particularly by professional respondents. 

JD observed that in Scotland, the definition of ‘domestic abuse’ is very specific, and one of the challenges will be to think about the scope and whether this will have to be purely aligned with the definition, or whether greater latitude will be built in. JD also highlighted that learning is not only generated from individual cases, and that there is further potential learning in carrying out an annual review of groupings of cases that could identify emerging patterns. JD stressed the importance of being mindful of families and clearly communicating any intentions from the outset and managing expectations.

MS emphasised the importance of retained flexibility in the review process, and that the point is the learning and not the exclusion or inclusion of a particular case. 

AD thanked ZK again for the presentation and Taskforce members for their comments. 

AD outlined the key parameters of the model as set out by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs following consideration of the consultation and engagement sessions findings:

  • the immediate focus of the model will be on those killed by an intimate partner/ ex-partner, which includes where the perpetrator commits suicide, and violent resistance where the victim of domestic abuse kills their abusive partner 
  • the model would also focus on cases where 90% of respondents and above supported inclusion within the model. That includes; ‘domestic abuse related family homicide’, ‘children’ and ‘domestic abuse related suicide’
  • within the scope, it is acknowledged there is further work to be done in relation to definitions and terminology which will be a key focus for the subgroup going forward
  • for the cases where support for inclusion was less than 90%, it is important to ensure the model retains enough flexibility so that cases are not screened out where there could be key learning. However, while a degree of flexibility will be built in, the initial focus in relation to the scope will be as set out
  • in terms of timing of when a review will be undertaken, recognising the challenges in a review being taken forward in parallel to ongoing investigations but there are other existing review processes in place that take place following a death including child protection learning reviews and death in custody reviews. This will require close working with Police Scotland and COPFS. Whilst there is no intention to jeopardise ongoing proceedings, proceeding in parallel should not be seen as a barrier to commencing a review process to capture effective learning
  • the findings in relation to legislative underpinning have been noted and Scottish Government officials will explore this further, with a view to updating ministers and Law Officer’s in due course. However, noting the timescales for bringing in legislation the intention is still to continue to explore how the model could be tested and commenced on a non-statutory basis whilst an appropriate legislative vehicle in found in which to move the model to
  • to reflect the further clarity gained on a number of aspects of the model, in particular the scope, the name of the model will be changed from ‘Domestic Homicide Reviews’ to ‘Domestic Homicide and Suicide Reviews’. This will be a working title with further consultation on the name and the model being undertaken once the development work is advanced to an appropriate stage 

AD highlighted that the detail within the parameters set out was still to be worked through with the subgroup but that the direction of travel set out by the Cabinet Secretary would now enable those more detailed discussions to begin. AD noted that given the level of detail and some of the elements of the model that will need to be bespoke, particularly in relation to the scope – consideration would now be given to establishing the necessary Task and Finish Groups. However, in relation to domestic abuse related suicide, a Task and Finish Group will be established to take this work forward and that will be Chaired by Fiona Drouet. AD thanked Fiona for taking on the role and look forward to seeing this work progress. 

AD outlined that the report would be published on Wednesday 6 December 2023. Members were asked to share the report with their networks, particularly those who participated in the consultation and targeted engagement.

AD invited comments and questions from Taskforce members. 

MM highlighted the work that the police carried out on revising the guidance for undertaking child protection learning reviews, by which there can be an agreement reached with the police and COPFS to undertake a review where there are ongoing criminal proceedings. MM noted that the guidance has been much improved and there is currently a much more progressive position adopted in terms of allowing that learning to be gained as quickly as possible, and so far this has been operating well. MM also emphasised that there might be some cases where tighter parameters need to be put in place but it can be worked through and overcome for the right reasons. AD thanked MM for the constructive feedback and approach. 

MM further added that the flexibility of the model is overall a positive aspect, since it allows cases that would otherwise sit outside the model to be brought in and review whether there is learning to be gained. However, MM cautioned that if the scope and scale become too wide, the model could become challenging to service meaningfully by the professionals who will be involved in it, and who are already under enormous pressure. 

JD responded to MM comment that part of the discussions over the summer with senior representatives on how the model developed can dovetail with current processes rather than having multiple parallel processes ongoing at the same time which would create additional pressure and burden for those involved in reviews. 

Ann Fehilly (AF) mentioned that placing the model on a statutory footing would make it a priority for statutory bodies but may prove challenging when considering the violence against women and girls sector which does not all fall under a statutory function. 

Homicide in Scotland statistics 2022-23 

AD invited Susan Carsley (SC) to present on the Homicide in Scotland Statistics 2022-23. SC focused on those killed by a partner or ex-partner and children over the previous year, five and ten years prior. 

AD thanked SC for her presentation and highlighted that there were a number of questions in relation to disaggregating the data in relation to victim and perpetrator age, disability and ethnicity. SC responded that the data could be broken down by age but disability data is not collated. Ethnicity data has recently started to be collated but is not able to be shared/ published until further data has been collated. Statistics colleagues will look to publish this data in due course. AD noted that it would be helpful to gain a greater understanding of what data could be gathered and used to help inform the model particularly given the clarity in relation to the scope of the model. 

Risks and issues 

AD mentioned that the risks and issues will be updated in due course and shared with members ahead of the next meeting. AD asked members to contact the team if there are any issues or risks they wished to raise. 

Any other business 


Action points 

  • Scottish Government officials to circulate the list of members sitting on the Model Development Subgroup 
  • Police and Stats colleagues to work together on data and what can be used to inform the development and operation of the model 
  • Scottish Government officials to update the risk and issues log 

Date of next meeting 

The next meeting will take place on Thursday, 7 March 2024, 14:00 – 16:00. 

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