Police Scotland (Domestic Abuse Training)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 28 April 2022.

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Photo of Pam Gosal Pam Gosal Conservative

3. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s position is on whether Police Scotland’s procedures and training for responding to cases of domestic abuse are sufficient. (S6F-01029)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The training and development of officers and the operational delivery of policing are matters for the chief constable. That said, I am assured that Police Scotland is committed to proactively targeting perpetrators and protecting victims and their families from the horrors of domestic abuse and the significant harm that it does.

To support implementation of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, the Scottish Government provided funding for the training of 14,000 police officers and staff, and the appointment of 700 domestic abuse champions to embed training and sustain organisational change. Officers in Scotland are therefore now more aware of and informed about the dynamics of domestic abuse.

Police Scotland is also undertaking divisional reviews of its policing response to domestic abuse across the country, and that process includes partnership and multi-agency engagement and working.

Photo of Pam Gosal Pam Gosal Conservative

Today, Caroline Lyon, the mother of Louise Aitchison, who was murdered in 2020 by her boyfriend, who had convictions for abusing women, is here in Parliament. She is calling for a swift fatal accident inquiry, after Police Scotland admitted to 18 separate errors, which meant that her daughter was never notified of her partner’s violent history.

Does the First Minister agree that the current system is simply not doing enough to keep victims safe, and that a measure such as a domestic abuse register is needed to ensure that any potential victim knows when they are at risk?

The First Minister:

I take the opportunity to welcome Louise’s mum to the chamber, although I am sure that she does not want to be here in these circumstances.

I absolutely understand her desire for a fatal accident inquiry and for that fatal accident inquiry to be taken forward as quickly as possible.

It is the case—I know that members across the chamber understand this—that the Lord Advocate is constitutionally responsible for the investigation of deaths in Scotland and conducts that responsibility independently of Government. Decisions on whether a fatal accident inquiry is held and the timing of the initiation of such an inquiry are also matters for the Lord Advocate. I will ensure that the detail of this exchange is brought to the attention of the Lord Advocate later today.

The other parts of the question are entirely reasonable. On the proposal for a domestic abuse offender register, we keep the law under continual review and are always open to exploring options to reduce crime, particularly crime of this nature. We will look carefully at the detail of any measure that is put forward and I know that the justice secretary would be happy to engage on that.

A domestic abuse disclosure scheme is already in place in Scotland. The purpose of that scheme is to allow people to make informed decisions about their situation when they may be at risk in a relationship. The scheme also allows Police Scotland to tell people that they may be at risk. That information can be given even if it has not been asked for.

Finally, I think that we always have to be open to improvements here. There is a real need for us to do everything possible to protect women and children in particular—because they are most often the victims of domestic abuse—as much as possible. The Government will remain open to any suggestions and proposals that are brought forward.

On this particular case, it is, of course, right that any issues are properly scrutinised in the course of the fatal accident inquiry process which is, as I said, a matter for the Lord Advocate.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

It is a privilege for me, as their regional MSP, to host Louise Aitchison’s family in Parliament today, on what is the second anniversary of Louise’s death. I thank them for giving all of us the opportunity to remember Louise, because she is the person who matters today. In life, Louise gave much love, care and service to others. This photograph—this is Louise. We should remember her. Saving other women’s lives will be her legacy.

As Louise’s family are in the gallery today—they look forward to meeting other MSPs after question time—will the First Minister join me in paying tribute to Louise’s mother, Caroline Lyon, and to Marion Scott and

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, for their work in securing the important fatal accident inquiry? The First Minister has recognised the importance of that work starting with urgent pace, so that lessons can be learned. Will she also confirm when domestic homicide reviews will be introduced?

The First Minister:

I will return to the member with a specific answer on that latter point so that I give the right information.

I thank Monica Lennon for remembering Louise in the chamber in the way that she has. I pay tribute to Louise’s family not only for being here today, but for raising the issues. I can only imagine how incredibly difficult it must be for any family that has been bereaved in such circumstances to do that, but doing it ensures that we can act to reduce the risk that other women will be subjected to domestic abuse and suffer as Louise did. Therefore, I want not only to pay tribute to them but to thank them for the courage and bravery that they are showing.

There are clearly questions about Louise’s situation. We have heard those already in this exchange. That is why it is right that a fatal accident inquiry takes place. It is also right for me to say that the conduct of that must be allowed to be independent. I hope that it gives the family answers and comfort.

For my part, I will continue to ensure that the Government acts in all possible ways to do everything that we can to protect women from domestic abuse. I believe that the bravery and courage of Louise’s family at such a sad time, and on such a sad day for them, will help with that. I did not know Louise, but I am sure not only that she was a wonderful young woman but that she would be very proud of her family today. [

Applause

.]