Domestic abuse courts: report

This report examines the effectiveness of Integrated Domestic Abuse Courts (IDACs) that use a ‘One Family, One Judge’ model.

Introduction and Background

This paper presents the findings from a small scale research project on Integrated Domestic Abuse Courts (IDACs). Research for the project began as part of an SGSSS internship project within Justice Analytical Services (JAS) over 12 weeks between April and July 2018, and has been continued in 2019 by JAS researchers.

The project was established in the context of the work of:

  • The Justice Expert Group, established under the Equally Safe strategy, and in particular under that Group's objective of informing the justice response to violence against women;
  • The Scottish Government Consultation on the Review of Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the Creation of a Family Justice Modernisation Strategy which included consideration of various aspects of family law as it impacts on children and young people.

In particular, the project sought to inform the debate on possible approaches to improving engagement between courts considering criminal and civil issues where there has been an allegation of domestic abuse. This need for improved engagement was raised during early discussion within the Justice Expert Group, and emerged as an issue during debates on the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. One potential response to the the issues raised by the separation of criminal and civil issues around domestic abuse was put forward by Scottish Women's Aid - the 'one case, one judge' system (with New York being offered as an example of such an approach).

Picking up on these debates, the subsequent Consultation on the Review of the Children (Scotland) Act, stated that the Scottish Government "would want to carry out research on the experience of other jurisdictions which have integrated courts or other forms of arrangements for interaction between the criminal and civil courts, to learn from their experience''

This research reviews the evidence on one approach to improving engagement between civil and criminal justice processes in the context of domestic abuse: the Integrated Domestic Abuse Court (IDAC).

A further project which has been grant funded by Justice Analytical Services will focus on the interrelationship between the investigation and prosecution of domestic abuse in Scottish criminal justice and parallel child contact proceedings within the civil justice processes. It will generate recommendations concerning possible measures to encourage and support a closer articulation between domestic abuse proceedings and child contact decisions.



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