Domestic Abuse Victims Let Down by Scotland's Prosecution Service, Report Finds

Domestic abuse victims in Scotland face inadequate support from the prosecution service, with poor communication and lack of case ownership leading to delayed and poor outcomes, according to a damning new report.

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Salman Akhtar
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Domestic Abuse Victims Let Down by Scotland's Prosecution Service, Report Finds

Domestic Abuse Victims Let Down by Scotland's Prosecution Service, Report Finds

Victims of domestic abuse victims in Scotland are not receiving adequate support from the country's prosecution service, according to a damning new report by HM Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland (IPS). The review found that in too many cases, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is failing to properly engage with and support victims in the lead-up to their cases reaching court.

The report highlighted poor communication as a key issue, with victims often not being kept informed about developments in their cases. In 80% of the cases assessed, communication with victims was found to be unsatisfactory, risking undermining their trust in the justice system. Victims described the process as confusing, frustrating, and exhausting.

Inspectors also noted a "lack of ownership" of cases, with them frequently passing through multiple prosecutors. This, combined with a failure to address issues expeditiously during case preparation, led to delayed or poor outcomes in many instances. The report found that prosecutors often lack adequate time to properly prepare cases due to high demand, sometimes having to rush preparation the evening before a trial.

Why this matters: Domestic abuse is a serious issue that affects countless individuals and families across Scotland. The failure of the justice system to properly support and engage with victims not only compounds their trauma but also risks allowing perpetrators to evade accountability, potentially putting more lives at risk.

The report made 27 recommendations for improvement, which have been accepted by the Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain KC. These include reviewing the Victim Information and Advice (VIA) service, rolling out effective schemes like dedicated Domestic Abuse Courts, and ensuring prosecutors have sufficient time to prepare cases thoroughly.

While the report praised the specialist domestic abuse court in Glasgow and the summary case management pilot in Dundee as examples of better practice, it noted that even these areas experienced many of the same challenges found elsewhere in Scotland. The chief executive of Victim Support Scotland stated that victims have had to endure a "highly flawed and traumatising system" for too long, and expressed hope that the recommendations will lead to tangible improvements.

"Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime which has a devastating impact on victims," said Deputy First Minister Shona Robison. "We welcome this domestic abuse report and the recommendations from the Inspectorate, and will work with justice partners to continue to improve the way domestic abuse cases are handled, and ensure victims are fully supported through the justice process."

Key Takeaways

  • Domestic abuse victims in Scotland lack adequate support from the prosecution service.
  • Poor communication, lack of case ownership, and rushed preparation lead to poor outcomes.
  • Recommendations include reviewing victim support, expanding specialized courts, and ensuring adequate case preparation time.
  • Specialized courts in Glasgow and Dundee also face challenges, indicating systemic issues.
  • The Scottish government welcomes the report and will work to improve how domestic abuse cases are handled.