Domestic abuse taskforce to probe deaths in bid to drive down killings

Scotland's first domestic homicide review system is to be established.

Scots domestic abuse taskforce to probe deaths in bid to drive down rate of killings Stephen Barnes via iStock

Killings where domestic abuse is suspected are to be reviewed in a bid to learn lessons about how to tackle the issue.

A taskforce including Police Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, health boards and representatives of victims will work to create the country’s first domestic homicide review system.

It will seek to prevent further crimes, as well as giving a voice to the relatives and victims of those impacted.

Official statistics indicate that in the last year, the number of female victims of homicide rose from 10 to 16, with more than half (56%) of those killed by a partner on ex-partner.

Legislation aimed at tackling domestic abuse was passed by MSPs at Holyrood in 2018.

Justice secretary Keith Brown said that the creation of a review system is fundamentally about “learning lessons” and looking at what improvements can be made across agencies.

“Men’s violence against women and girls is one of the most devastating and fundamental violations of human rights,” said Brown.

“Any form of abuse is wrong and in many cases the victim and perpetrator may have been in contact with services ranging from drug, alcohol and mental health services where there may be signs of risk that can be identified and dealt with at an earlier stage before it escalates to homicide.

“Domestic Homicide Reviews are not about finger pointing or apportioning blame among agencies.

“This is fundamentally about learning lessons, identifying agencies for change and improvement within and across agencies, preventing further domestic homicides and giving a voice to the the relatives and victims of those affected by such devastating crimes.”

Brown concluded: “This new taskforce will meet in the coming weeks to begin developing a review model, in line with evidence and best practice, with a view to proposals going to public consultation next year.

“This particular project continues our close working with criminal justice and third sector partners in a collective effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate domestic abuse.”

Dr Marsha Scott, Scottish Women’s Aid chief executive, underlined the need for a system that learns lessons quickly and takes account of all deaths due to domestic abuse.

“We have long called for a domestic abuse killings review model in Scotland that makes the deaths and murders of women and children visible and we welcome the Scottish Government moving in this direction today,” she said.

“We must create a system that is prepared to learn lessons swiftly and that takes into account all deaths because of domestic abuse, including deaths by suicide and killings of children, and we are looking forward to discussions about how we create a Scottish model that is robust and fit for purpose.

Scott also thanked those who have campaigned on the issue.

“One death because of domestic abuse is one death too many. Women’s Aid staff and surviving family members across the country know this,” she said.

“We thank all of them who have campaigned with us on this issue for their tenacity and determination in memory of their mothers, sisters, friends, children and loved ones.”