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New initiative to build links between prosecutors and victims of domestic abuse.

An innovative pilot scheme which aims to transform the service offered to victims of domestic abuse by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) launched this month.

The pilot, for cases heard at Dundee, Hamilton and Paisley Sheriff Courts, will include new methods of direct engagement between prosecutors and victims. The scheme will enhance the existing service provided by dedicated Victim Information and Advice (VIA) staff at COPFS to enable victims to speak directly to a prosecutor early in the justice process. 

The new service builds on the recent experience of the specialist Domestic Abuse prosecution team in Glasgow, and academic research by experienced prosecutor, Dr Emma Forbes. 

Upon the launch of the pilot, The Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC commented:  

“We recognise that the justice process can be overwhelming for victims of crime. Prosecutors do not underestimate the strain that navigating the complexities of the system can add to the experience of being a victim of crime.  

“The pilot looks at what we offer to address the concerns of many victims, to ensure we are meeting their needs by offering earlier, more direct and proactive communications with a prosecutor.  

“We are determined to increase the confidence of victims in the criminal justice system.” 

“We are determined to increase the confidence of victims in the criminal justice system.” 

The Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC

The pilot has the backing of ASSIST, the victim advocacy and support agency working in Dundee, Hamilton and Paisley.  

Fiona McMullen, Operations Manager at ASSIST noted: 

“The journey to justice can be complex and confusing for victims in domestic abuse cases. Victims have told us that contact from a Procurator Fiscal depute can help them to feel listened to and included. ASSIST welcomes the strategy for enhanced engagement with victims during the pilot.”  

A significant programme of work underway as part of the pilot includes: 

  • Offering victims telephone contact with a prosecutor at the early stage of a domestic abuse case. 
  • In cases which include allegations involving a contravention of Section 1 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, an additional in person meeting will be offered in advance of the trial.  
  • Communication will focus on engaging victims in the process with the provision of clear explanations of the progress of their case, and the role of the prosecutor.  
  • Engaging with victims’ questions on the process and signposting to additional support which would be of benefit.  

This work is part of the wider Summary Case Management (SCM) pilot launched this month which seeks to reduce the number of unnecessary hearings at summary level, which contributed to over 400,000 witness citations last year. It will achieve this by facilitating early disclosure of evidence and early judicial case management. Improvements in the justice system in this way frees up time for innovations such as enhanced services for victims and witnesses.