HMICS Thematic Inspection of Domestic Abuse Phase 1

12 January 2023

The aim of Phase I of the domestic abuse inspection was to assess the state, efficiency and effectiveness of Police Scotland’s response to domestic abuse, with a focus on the user experience of victims.

The review focussed on the experience of victims reporting domestic abuse, through the investigative processes, up to the conclusion of the police investigation. Wider criminal justice issues impacting victims of domestic abuse, including the effect of court backlogs, will be assessed in due course.

The review contains 14 recommendations and identifies areas for development to improve the service delivered to victims of domestic abuse.




Police Scotland should take action to ensure it is meeting its standard of service statutory obligations in offering the gender of interviewing officers to victims of domestic abuse.


Police Scotland should expand the availability and use of third party sites within community settings and work collaboratively with them to ensure they are properly equipped to support and assist victims to report.


Police Scotland should implement changes to enhance the response at the first point of contact for more complex areas of work such as public protection.


Police Scotland should implement an ongoing support and training programme for all C3 staff incorporating input from specialists within public protection, to ensure C3 staff are properly equipped to conduct and record thorough THRIVE assessments for domestic abuse incidents that include all six components.


Police Scotland should streamline the policing response to diary appointments through promoting and embedding a “getting it right first time approach” and defining parameters of acceptable performance. It should also put systems in place to obtain data and management information on the use and compliance of diary appointments.


Police Scotland should urgently take steps to ensure there is a clear and consistent process for recording victim safety plans, supported by additional training in risk assessment and safety planning for all relevant officers, staff and supervisors. This should be accompanied by guidance and pro-forma documentation to ensure all aspects are considered and to achieve consistency across the organisation of: ■ What safety provisions are available to officers ■ What information should be contained with a safety plan ■ Where safety plans should be recorded so they are accessible to those who may need to review/access them


Police Scotland should review the role of officers involved in risk assessment and safety planning for domestic abuse incidents to provide national consistency, based on the optimum model, and ensure that they are given the appropriate training and support.


Police Scotland should: i.Ensure that all domestic abuse training incorporates an element of lived experience of victims. ii. As a matter of priority, introduce a programme of mandatory CPD on key topics for all operational officers, supervisors and managers. Key topics for the first year should include: DASA offences, to improve officers’ understanding and use of the legislation; trauma informed practices, to improve engagement with victims; and lived experience of victims, to address problematic attitudes and behaviours.


Police Scotland and the SPA need to ensure that investigative opportunities for digital evidence capture are improved and maximised for domestic abuse offences.


Police Scotland must, as a priority, introduce a robust system for allocation and monitoring progression of domestic abuse investigation packages at local, regional and national level to ensure there are clear channels of ownership and to improve service to victims. With the introduction of the new national crime recording system, Police Scotland should introduce a consistent national standard for domestic abuse packages, to include storage in an accessible and auditable format.


Police Scotland should develop and implement effective processes for communication with victims of domestic abuse that are victim focused and include acceptable timeframes for providing updated information. Such processes should include clear recording of preferred methods of contact, which can be accessed by relevant personnel.


Police Scotland should ensure that the cadre of trained SOLOs across the organisation is sufficient to meet demand and to ensure the wellbeing of these officers.


Police Scotland should incorporate the findings and recommendations from our Strategic Workforce Planning Assurance Review in its approach to the Public Protection Development Programme. It should review its structures holistically and for its response to domestic abuse: ■ Establish an in-depth and accurate picture of current and forecasted demand levels ■ Set out clearly defined service level standards to meet victims’ needs ■ Establish the resource level needed to meet demand ■ Implement the best model nationally and locally to effect the change needed to support the concept of investigative ownership and continuity of contact/engagement with victims ■ Ensure the resources within that model are empowered and have the requisite skills and training to equip them in the complex area of domestic abuse


Police Scotland and the SPA should put in place measures to monitor progress against the areas for development outlined in this thematic review.

Publication type: 
Inspection report