Improving Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and interventions for victims of domestic abuse: consultation

A consultation to improve multi-agency risk assessment centres for victims of domestic abuse in Scotland.

Part 4: Policy and Legislative Context

The Scottish Government's work on tackling domestic abuse more widely is underpinned by a legislative framework and guided by a number of strategic documents.

Equally Safe

Equally Safe: Scotland's strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls, the Scottish Government and COSLA's joint strategy was first published in 2014, updated in 2016[7] and is complemented by a Delivery Plan published in 2017[8]. It has been developed in close collaboration with a number of stakeholders, many of whom have drawn on the voices and experiences of women and children impacted by gender based violence.

The strategy sets out a vision of a strong and flourishing Scotland where all individuals are equally safe and respected, and where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse, as well as the attitudes that perpetuate it. It articulates a shared understanding of the causes, risk factors and scale of the problem. It highlights the need to prioritise prevention, and it sets out how we will develop the performance framework which allows us to know whether we are realising our ambitions. We are committed to working collaboratively with partners and achieve change by making best use of available resources and with a clear governance framework underpinning delivery. A Joint Strategic Board has been established to oversee progress and identify emerging issues, and a Joint Delivery Group has been established to drive progress and embed collaborative working nationally.

The United Nations' own definition of violence against women and girls[9] has guided the development of policy in this area for many years; it recognises that this violence is both cause and consequence of gender inequality. Our definition, drawn from the UN definition, states that:

"Gender based violence is a function of gender inequality, and an abuse of male power and privilege. It takes the form of actions that result in physical, sexual and psychological harm or suffering to women and children, or affront to their human dignity, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. It is men who predominantly carry out such violence, and women who are predominantly the victims of such violence. By referring to violence as 'gender based' this definition highlights the need to understand violence within the context of women's and girl's subordinate status in society. Such violence cannot be understood, therefore, in isolation from the norms, social structure and gender roles within the community, which greatly influence women's vulnerability to violence."

When we talk about violence against women and girls, we refer to a continuum of violence which includes domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment, commercial sexual exploitation (such as prostitution), and so called 'honour based' violence (such as Female Genital Mutilation and Forced Marriage).

Equally Safe delivery plan

The Equally Safe delivery plan sets out 118 actions over 2017-2021 to help to make the vision of Equally Safe a reality. These actions are set out under the four strategic priorities of Equally Safe.

The work to improve multi agency risk assessment and working for victims of domestic abuse sits within priorities 3:

  • Interventions are early and effective, preventing violence and maximising the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people
  • Justice responses are robust, swift, consistent and coordinated
  • Women, children and young people access relevant, effective and integrated services
  • Service providers competently identify violence against women and girls, and respond effectively to women, children and young people affected

And 4:

  • Men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls and perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response
  • Justice responses are robust, swift, consistent and coordinated
  • Men who carry out violence against women and girls are identified early and held to account by the criminal and civil justice system
  • Relevant links are made between the experience of women, children and young people in the criminal and civil system[10]

Helping services improve their knowledge of the signs of domestic abuse and of how to work together collaboratively will increase the early identification of victims and their safety. Greater awareness of good practice across services will also improve their collaboration and consistency of support offered to victims as well as holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Action 3.11 of the delivery plan:

3.11 Consult on how to embed consistent and effective operation of multi-agency structures to support high risk victims of domestic abuse, including consideration of national guidance and the creation of a statutory underpinning 2017-2018 Scottish Government


There is a range of legislation that covers domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence. These include:

  • The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 which introduces a specific statutory criminal offence of domestic abuse
  • The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 which includes a Domestic Abuse Aggravation and criminalises the non-consensual sharing of intimate images
  • Criminal Justice and Licensing (S) Act 2010 which introduced a new offence of stalking and a new offence of 'threatening or abusive behaviour' (a response to a court judgment which limited the scope of breach of the peace with respect to incidents which occurred in private).The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 – Rape and Sexual Assault
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (section 8) Harassment
  • The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (section 11) welfare of the child affected by domestic abuse
  • Common law assault
  • Common law breach of the peace


Email: Leonie Stone

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