COPFS corporate

Victims and children at heart of domestic abuse protocol

The Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC and Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams today (Friday March 24th) launched a new Joint Protocol on Domestic Abuse.

The agreement commits Police Scotland and the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service to a consistent and robust approach to domestic abuse and recognises the significant and enduring impact which domestic abuse can have on victims and children.

It replaces the existing Joint Protocol on Domestic Abuse between police and prosecutors. Under the revised Joint Protocol:

The role of children will be more visible in the investigation and prosecution process.    

There will be an expanded definition of domestic abuse to reflect our increased understanding of the crime. Additional guidance is given on the reporting of counter allegations to reduce the fear by victims that they could be arrested.  A strong emphasis is placed on the need for a sufficiency of evidence before action can be taken by prosecutors.  Guidance is given on the circumstances in which an accused person may be released on an undertaking to appear at court.

Mr Wolffe said: "Domestic Abuse can have serious and lasting impacts on the victim - and also on children and other members of the family. It should have no place in today’s Scotland. The Joint Protocol reflects the continuing commitment of police and prosecutors to addressing domestic abuse effectively and rigorously.”

He added: “This week we have seen the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill which breaks new ground in its understanding of domestic abuse and the consequences it can have on victims and children. The Bill recognises that domestic abuse may involve a course of conduct rather than a single incident or isolated incidents. It also recognises that abuse can take many forms including non- violent coercive control which can undermine the victim’s dignity and humanity.

“This progressive offence recognises that domestic abuse is about more than physical harm. Domestic abuse can break a victim’s spirit and restrict victims’ freedom and ability to live their life as they choose. The updated Protocol put in place by police and prosecutors will ensure that we continue to maintain a consistent investigative and enforcement approach to this particular form of criminality.”

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said: “The latest protocol highlights the absolute commitment of Police Scotland and prosecutors to work together and to do everything possible to bring those responsible for domestic abuse to justice. It also recognises the complexity of abuse and how it manifests itself in many ways.

“Police Scotland will not tolerate domestic abuse. It's an appalling crime which destroys the lives of victims and their families. It does not discriminate – it is suffered by people regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age or mobility and I hope this latest protocol gives victims greater confidence to seek help knowing they will be listened to and treated sensitively."

The Protocol was updated after consulting widely with campaigners against Domestic Abuse and victims groups.

Mhairi McGowan of ASSIST added: “"I very much welcome the introduction of this new Joint Protocol and the confirmation of a partnership approach that includes not just Police and COPFS, but specialist services such as our own.

We know from our contact with victims that as part of the abuse some perpetrators try to get their partners arrested and escape prosecution themselves, so the clarification that Police officers responding to DA should identify the primary perpetrator is very welcome indeed.

We also know that for some victims, their situation makes it harder to report abuse and I hope that this new Protocol and the launch of the new DA bill earlier this week will provide some reassurance and that more victims will report what is happening to them.

Proper assessment of risk to victims and safety measures such as conditions that keep perpetrators away during the court process and the consideration of Non Harassment Orders that allow on-going protection after the court case has finished are crucial to ensuring we have an appropriate response to domestic abuse

“I hope therefore that this launch today heralds yet another step forward in the fight to ensure that everyone can have a life free of fear and the dread of what's coming next! "

The joint protocol between Police Scotland and the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal can be downloaded here.