Chapter 2 – Policy/Strategy
66. Since committing to the principles of The Strategy, police forces have continued to develop their policies and approaches towards victims. In doing so their services have changed with, in general, increased focus on what the criminal justice system perceive to be more serious crimes.
67. Although not a focus within phase one of this report, this has seen the advent and development of roles specialised in supporting:
- victims of sexual offences such as rape
- bereaved relatives of victims of fatal road traffic collisions or homicides
- domestic abuse victims
68. The issue of victim vulnerability, which need not be connected to the seriousness of the offence, has also had its profile raised by underpinning legislation and policy development.
69. These issues are mentioned within this phase one report as the successive layering of new approaches to victims has resulted in quite a complex array of possible interactions taking place between the police and victims of different types of crime. When individual force or other local practices are added to this mix the range of possible activities and outcomes increases.
70. We noted some strong underlying principles however. All force policies emphasised that providing victims of crime with updates was important. Forces have differing variations in timing and content of automatically generated letters being sent to victims, but they all have additionally created an expectation that personal contact will take place between officers investigating crimes and victims.
71. We spoke to a range of officers who confirmed that not only was this organisational imperative well known and understood, but that there was a genuine desire on their behalf to update victims.
72. Officers were frequently unclear about what interactions other than their own might take place with victims. This included what letters their forces might send to victims and how the victim might be put in touch with victim support services and groups.
73. The issue of frequency of contact with victims was very much subject to individual judgements with fortnightly to monthly representing the normal range. Some managers thought that it might be helpful to specify this more clearly in their force policies.
74. In our 2008 HMICS thematic inspection, Quality of service and feedback to users of the police services in Scotland13 as a result of our research into this area we recommended;
75. "That all forces publish details of the service that members of the public can expect to receive when they call the police in order to promote a consistency across the service that nevertheless acknowledges local variations in service delivery, we propose that this take the form of a national minimum standard agreed by ACPOS that can then be tailored to take account of local differences. Publications should be sufficiently detailed that the public can understand what the police can and cannot do in various circumstances."
76. Some forces have produced a standard for updating victims eg Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, others are in the process of doing so and some are awaiting the outcome of national considerations through the ACPOS consultation working group.
77. As we stated in 2008, we recognise that it cannot be correct to set national fixed time periods for all contacts with victims. Their needs vary, communities at any one time may be more sensitive towards certain types of crime and the police may also want to vary contact quantity and focus as part of an agreed policy such as with domestic abuse victims.
78. That said, some better information about what is likely to happen with most victims' cases was a commonly expressed need throughout this inspection. Ambient levels of knowledge are very low. In 2009 the SCJS ( see footnote 7) reported that 83% of adults contacted knew not very much or nothing at all about how the criminal justice system works in Scotland.
79. As part of this inspection we used data that we had collected in an earlier audit of incidents that were reported to the police. We had examined incidences of domestic violence, vandalism and minor assaults. In relation to the cases that we selected to audit, victim contact was not always easy to track and may have been updated on a number of different IT systems.
80. As previously stated, most forces generate automated letters to victims. They expect officers to carry out further regular updating. What is difficult to understand therefore is why the overall levels of knowledge about what happens in the criminal justice system are so low, why some victims report that they don't know what happened with their cases and why this is reinforced by the submissions received from our wider contact with victims groups.
81. Irrespective of whether the cases we examined were typical or not the fact remains that whether through the SCJS, our own contact with victims and victims groups, or from our discussion with police officers and staff, there is a clear and consistent recognition that where victims expectations are not met, it is primarily in relation to the provision of information about their case.
82. We recognise the arguments put forward by ACPOS and some forces as to why they are reticent to set standards. The absence of at least an outline of what victims of crime might expect however leads to individual victims setting their own standards and subsequent expectations. This picture is further complicated when individual officers add their own views and act upon what standard they think is reasonable. In this scenario the chances of a mismatch between expectation and delivery seem unnecessarily high.
83. Victims at times articulated this quite clearly;
"Would have liked to have known what happened after I had reported crime. Police told me they would be in touch but never phoned back."
"I didn't try to find out because I kept hoping I would get a letter telling me what was happening."
84. And some even tried to explain……
"I think I was not contacted with an update because the police have so much paperwork to do they don't have time to contact people."
85. These comments are in contrast however with;
"spoke to investigating officer a few times and was kept informed and up to date…well done."
86. And positively for APCOS's previously stated desired outcome of increasing crime reporting in 2010/11;
"more likely to report crime in the future."
87. Since the difference between those most satisfied and those less so may simply be some basic information about the progress of the victim's case, the opportunities for forces to improve satisfaction and increase confidence appear good.
88. There was a view expressed by some people that we spoke to that victims should have their service provision articulated as a single journey along the criminal justice system.
89. This sounds simple and has an obvious appeal. What this inspection has shown though is that there is no single journey - that victims' needs vary for a number of reasons.
90. That is not to say that some sort of outline would not be helpful for most people. To that end, we believe that the police and COPFS could be clearer about how cases are progressed and at least indicate in agreed broad terms what might happen and when.
91. We recognise that economically this is not the time to advance the case for large investments in new or extended areas of service delivery. Fortunately we don't think that this is required in relation to this issue.
92. Some simple explanatory information to victims about what is likely to happen with their case and over what timescales would, we think go some way to :
- reduce the expectation gaps that some victims have relative to service delivery;
- reduce the amount of time and resource that other agencies eg VSS expend either explaining what may happen with a victim's case or contacting the police to try and find out what is happening;
- reduce the demand, principally by telephone, letter and e-mail that victims place upon the police by seeking information that they could have been provided with in the first place.
93. In relation to this last point victims who choose to do so will normally attempt to contact the officer dealing with their case who is quite likely to be working on a rotating shift pattern.
94. This often results in telephone calls to stations and contact centres with messages and notes being taken and left for officers. The administration and potential time delays inherent in this process can all cause frustration.
"Phoned lots of times but it took ages to get the officer dealing with it - messages not passed on, calls not returned….."
"Can't get through to the investigating officer, called her at least three times - no response from her she got back to me once, told me she was going on holiday for 3 weeks - Gave up trying."
95. The police need the public to report crime and disorder and to be active rather than passive in their interest in the well-being of their communities. These attitudes not only prevent crime but on those occasions that it has taken place, provides the motivated witnesses that are so intrinsic to successful prosecutions.
96. The criminal justice system needs such witnesses and without them the considerable investment that is made in policing, prosecution and courts will be less effective.
97. We noted the time spent by voluntary sector support agencies trying to find out information from the police and COPFS on behalf of victims. To do this we found that they were also spending time and resource in developing individual contacts to get the required information from these criminal justice agencies.
98. These voluntary sector agencies are provided with funding from local and central government primarily to provide practical and emotional support to victims.
99. This potentially represent double-funding in that criminal justice agencies are funded to provide effective services. Effective service ensure that their users understand what is available to them, they offer ease of access and keep users informed of progress. Therefore other bodies should not have to achieve this on victims' behalf. It adversely impacts the core roles of those voluntary organisations and inhibits their providing support either to more victims or more in-depth services to those victims that need them.
100. Further, the uncertainties surrounding the funding of some voluntary organisations means that victims may not be able to access these services so easily in the future. Alternatively if public policy shifts towards moving some service provision from the public sector to either voluntary or commercial organisations, then clarity about which body is being paid to carry out which service, has even greater importance.
101. The Scottish Government engages across all of these sectors and is well placed to take an overview of this issue to ensure that effective use of public funds results in victims receiving not only the information, but the practical and emotional support that The Strategy provides.
102. In relation to the second strand of The Strategy, practical and emotional support, the police act principally in three ways;
103. First, at or near the time of reporting a crime, police will often provide immediate advice or assistance to victims for example in relation to personal safety or property security.
104. Second, recognising that many victims require more specialist and longer-term support, police forces have entered into agreements with VSS to supply victims' details where they consent to this, to VSS.
105. Third, they also provide information to allow self-referral to other organisations.
106. The majority of the police staff that we spoke to had very little knowledge of what happened post-referral to VSS. Few knew how this process worked in the first place. Although not articulated in any one place, the overall intention of forces nevertheless appears to be to increase referral rates. Supporting this intention appears to be the expectation that as principal funders of VSS, the Scottish Government oversees the quantity and quality of service provision thereafter.
107. As we have stated at as a consequence of the current review of The Strategy, it would be useful to be clearer about which agencies are primarily responsible for delivering particular strands of the strategy as victims pass along the criminal justice process. An example of where this clarity has been achieved in relation to family liaison is shown at (p 64).
108. The third strand of The Strategy, greater participation in the criminal justice system, is generally accepted to be most difficult to assess but is seen to flow naturally from successful activity under the first two strands. We would support this view.
109. Police forces have utilised restorative justice programmes for a number of years. These vary in terms of victim involvement from the views of a victim being relayed to an offender through to direct dialogue between victim and offender within a carefully supervised context.
110. The use of such schemes in the appropriate circumstances continues to attract support.
111. Historically the position of COPFS was that information about their decisions on the prosecution of cases, including decisions not proceed to a court prosecution, could not be provided. This policy not to provide information extended to the victim of the crime itself. The historical reasons for this policy were based on a number of factors; these included the protection of the independence of the COPFS, fears that information provision could open for debate the confidentiality of documents and reports on which the decisions were made and further that it could lead to public/media discussion of the decisions which could subject the accused to trial by media with no right to defend themselves. This position did not sit well with the European Directive nor The Strategy which COPFS had adopted.
112. The Strategy makes commitment to provide for the information needs of victims. We found only limited evidence of debate, discussion or agreement between the relevant criminal justice agencies and the Scottish Government, as to which agency or body has responsibility for providing the information to the victim at any particular point in the criminal justice process. We return to this point later in the report.
113. Even prior to The Strategy COPFS had commissioned in 1995 published in 1998, research into the information needs of victims in the criminal justice system. That research found that there was general agreement by criminal justice agencies and victims that two distinct types of information were required by victims. These were:
- Case-specific information - information unique to each individual case.
- General information (about the criminal justice system) - not case specific.
114. There was not agreement however as to how this information should be delivered ie automatically or on request. 14
115. In 2005 COPFS policy about provision of information on their decisions not to prosecute was changed. New 'interim provisions' were introduced in such cases to instruct (1) reactive provision of information where this was requested by the victim (unless there was compelling reasons not to do so) and (2) pro-active information provision to certain categories of victims of the reasons for Procurator Fiscals' decisions to take 'No Proceedings' or non court decisions (eg offer of Fiscal Fine). This pro-active information provision was recommended as 'good practice' to victims in certain categories of cases:
- Domestic abuse
- Racially motivated cases
- Sexual offences
- Child victim cases
- Other cases where there is a particularly vulnerable victim
116. Although the 'General Minute' 15 containing this instruction, which was a significant change in policy and working practice, was labelled as being 'interim guidance' with assurance it would be followed by detailed guidance for contact with members of the public, the detailed further guidance has not been issued. The guidance does however include some template letters and advice to be used by Procurators Fiscal when dealing with such requests.
117. Returning to the time of our inspection Victim Support Scotland ( VSS), who had in the region of 100,000 victims of crime referred to them in the current year, submitted that "One of the most basic needs and rights for victims is to be kept informed of what is happening in their case." We found this position to be in line with the evidence gathered throughout this inspection from other stakeholder groups, other agencies within the criminal justice system, victims themselves, police and COPFS staff that we spoke to during this inspection. VSS suggest, and we would endorse a policy which would require professionals dealing with criminal cases to have, in addition to the current legal and process considerations, a simple 'victim' consideration:
"1. Is there a victim in this case?
2. If yes - does that victim have a right to know about the decision I have just made?" 16
118. This change in mind-set would require to be supported by appropriate process provisions - see Processes page 55.
119. Strategically the principal response by COPFS to The Strategy has been directed to supporting victims of crime at the more serious end of criminal activity and particularly vulnerable victims. To facilitate this COPFS has established a national service provision 'Victim Information and Advice' ( VIA).
120. Initially VIA was set up as a discrete unit within COPFS and more recently integrated within the COPFS area structure. The purpose of VIA is to facilitate information provision to victims, albeit currently to a limited category of victims based on either their vulnerability or the nature/gravity of the offence committed against them, to arrange for support for victims in the criminal justice process (through processes such as 'special measures' at court 17) and to refer victims to the appropriate agencies to receive other support as required.
121. The COPFS operational instructions for VIA however commence at the stage court proceedings are initiated and therefore the vast majority of victims in this phase of inspection do not receive information or advice from VIA on the progress or outcome of their case. This anomaly between COPFS policy on information provision and VIA operational instructions became apparent during our inspection (see section on Processes).
122. In the COPFS 2009/10 Business Plan, COPFS announced new priority actions to meet a longstanding key objective of COPFS:-
"to provide services that meet the information needs of victims, witnesses and nearest relatives, in co-operation with other agencies".
123. The new priority actions, issued in the 2009/10 Business Plan, to assist meeting this objective were:
"…….to extend the obligation to notify Vulnerable Witnesses of the outcome of cases to include cases which are disposed of by Direct Measure or No Action decisions (including No Action Meantime)."
124. "to increase the number of cases in which vulnerability is proactively explored with victims or witnesses who have been identified by use of the vulnerability flag by the police or otherwise highlighted by the Fiscal when taking the initial decision. Proactive exploration of vulnerability will take place in all cases referred to VIA and the outcome will be recorded, with special measures applications being made to the court or other necessary advice or assistance given where appropriate."
125. The 2009/10 Business Plan also includes a commitment to further this:
"Two Areas will pilot the extension of notification to Vulnerable Witnesses of outcomes in cases where we instruct Direct Measures or No Action."
126. In any event, although we understand this pilot is due to take place sometime in 2010, this commitment appears to have been superseded. As this inspection report was being completed in June 2010, COPFS published the COPFS Business Plan 2010-11 in which the commitment to victims was extended further and the priority action stated as:
"To notify victims of the outcome of cases to include cases which are disposed of by Direct Measure or No Action decisions (including No Action Meantime)."
127. It is not clear if this is now to be adopted formally as COPFS policy in this regard. In any event this position is welcomed as a move towards both the stated outcome of The Strategy and also the stated need of victims during this inspection process and earlier (see reference to COPFS research published in 1998 supra). It is a welcome broadening by COPFS of its previous policy and indeed practice observed at the time of this inspection.
128. We found during this inspection process some lack of knowledge and understanding by operational staff in COPFS about the policies and strategic reasoning behind information provision to victims relating to the progress and decision making in their case. This extended to both those victims in the vulnerable criteria and victims of the stated categories of crime types to receive pro-active information about COPFS decisions.
129. We were advised that COPFS staff at the COPFS 'Enquiry Point' 18 have withdrawn from providing information about prosecution decisions to victims albeit their own operational instructions advised them to do so. We were advised this was as a result of criticism from some Procurator Fiscal Offices when they had provided this information. This lack of clarity has made their position more difficult when dealing with victims.
130. We also found a gap in the understanding of processes used by different parts of the organisation. Where deputes marked cases 19 not to proceed to a prosecution in court, and those cases fell within the criteria where policy indicates it is good practice to intimate the decision to the victim, there were a number of examples where the depute had attempted to do so (see results of case review at page 66), they did so by marking the case to be passed to VIA. This was done on the understanding VIA would correspond with the victim. VIA however follow 'operational instructions' which only commence as court proceedings are raised. This leads to the unfortunate position that VIA may receive notification of the decisions but take no action to inform the victim.
131. Separate from the case specific information needs of victims are the general criminal justice system information needs of victims. Strategically much of the effort by COPFS to address these needs is again through VIA. VIA has a remit to provide this information to those victims and witnesses which are referred to it. VIA has a well developed system of provision of leaflets and literature however again the restrictions on their service provision, due to operational instructions starting at the point proceedings are raised, results in victims (in cases considered in this phase of the inspection) not receiving this information where COPFS has taken the decision to dispose of a case other than by way of court proceedings.
132. While the provision of emotional and practical support is one of the principal objectives of The Strategy it was considered by staff less likely to be the responsibility of COPFS in cases considered in this phase. Where summary level cases are marked not to proceed to court (as in this phase) the contact that COPFS has with the case is essentially 'on screen'. The decision making by COPFS will be some time after the crime complained of. In the vast majority of these cases there is no direct or continuing contact with the victim. COPFS proceed on the understanding that the agency receiving the complaint and carrying out the initial investigation with the victim (normally the police) has addressed the victim's immediate practical and emotional needs as required by The Strategy. We consider this strategic position to be pragmatically sound.
133. COPFS has a well developed website with information readily available to all who search it. It has discrete sections providing clear and readily available information and advice for victims and witnesses about the criminal justice system. This web site also links directly to the Scottish Government website for victims which again details clearly the general provisions for victims in the criminal justice system. We were surprised by the lack of comment about both of these websites by victims and other stakeholder groups.
134. Within COPFS there are a plethora of commitments which COPFS has made on its treatment of and to victims. These have evolved reactively over several years to different situations, crime types and policies. We found a lack of clarity of these within COPFS and perhaps more importantly with victims and their representative organisations. We were advised during the inspection process that work was being carried out to consolidate these commitments and bring them to a succinct and readily useable form. We understand the consolidated commitment to victims and witnesses is due to be completed and launched both publicly and to staff in Autumn 2010.
135. As part of this inspection process we highlighted three different crime types to compare and contrast the effect of different policies, processes and outcomes. These crime types were domestic abuse, minor assault and vandalism. Of these three we found it of particular note that domestic abuse has been subject of substantial interest and a high level of specific and directed policy and practices in the last few years. This is across both the police and COPFS and in partnership with other criminal justice agencies. The difference in how this specific crime type is dealt with is quite significant and the positive outcomes, spoken to by many in this inspection process, striking.
We have therefore dealt with domestic abuse in a discrete section at page 39.
CONCLUSIONS - COPFS
136. There has been a substantial development in COPFS policies relating to victims since 2001. This is still developing as noted in the recent Business Plans.
137. Strategically much of COPFS response to The Strategy has been through the development of VIA which in turn addresses the needs of victims of more serious crime categories than those being considered at this phase of the inspection.
138. There is some disconnect between stated policy and the organisational response eg the operational guidelines to VIA staff.
139. There is some lack of knowledge and understanding by operational staff of policies and strategy although work is currently being carried out to consolidate this information to make it more accessible to staff.
140. That COPFS set a timetable to move towards its business plan aim "to notify victims of the outcome of cases to include cases which are disposed of by Direct Measure or No Action decisions (including No Action Meantime)".
141. That COPFS expedite the work to consolidate its 'Commitments to victims and witnesses of crime' and ensure through a tailored training regime this is brought to the attention of all staff.
142. That the consolidated 'Commitments to victims of crime' is published in an accessible form for victims of crime (on the website/forwarded by leaflet to identified victims) in order they are made aware of the minimum standards of treatment they are entitled to expect from COPFS.
143. That COPFS work with the Scottish Government, criminal justice partners and stakeholder groups to raise awareness of their website and the information available there.
An Example of Good Practice across Policing and COPFS
Arrangements for prevention, investigation and prosecution of domestic abuse
144. The investigation and prosecution of cases of domestic abuse has received particular attention over recent years. The research, information and statistics relating to domestic abuse are quite startling. There is a substantial body of research which establishes that reports of domestic abuse will generally be after a prolonged series of incidents which have not previously been reported.
145. The figures for homicide in Scotland 20 show a 'domestic' background to be by far the single most identifiable risk. In 2007-08 of the 115 homicides in Scotland, 22 were 'domestic' in nature. In 2008-09, 18 of the 99 homicides were 'domestic' in nature. This is approaching 20% of all homicides in Scotland.
146. Similarly, across all levels of domestic abuse crime these constitute a significant volume of reported crime. In the year 2008-09 there were 29,238 crimes of domestic abuse recorded by police in Scotland and 18,691 of these were reported to the Procurator Fiscal. The number of cases reported to the Procurator Fiscal has increased significantly year on year and has effectively doubled since 2000-01. 21
147. Accordingly this area has been subject to concerted action by COPFS, the police, other criminal justice partners and stakeholder groups and the Scottish Government to attempt to address this issue.
148. Notably there are specific policies relating to decision making and processing of cases of domestic abuse. The Joint Protocol between ACPOS and COPFS on domestic abuse 22 sets out clear and precise instruction on the investigation, practices and processes to be deployed by both police and COPFS.
149. There was evidence of strong and consistent support for the protocol from leaders across both organisations. At operational levels we generally found sound knowledge and understanding of the protocol and there were detailed processes and guidance to ensure compliance with it. In fact at times it was clear that the high level of monitoring of compliance was the primary reason for compliance.
150. In this regard we highlight the Strathclyde Police Domestic Abuse Toolkit as good practice.
151. We looked in more detail at the arrangements within COPFS and Strathclyde Police supporting the domestic abuse court in Glasgow. Here we found highly developed multi-agency working relationships achieving good investigation and prosecution processes, frequently resulting in fulfilling the domestic abuse courts objectives including successful prosecutions, early pleas and shortened court timelines which were considered to be of critical importance to victims involved in the system.
152. It was encouraging to see this being delivered alongside excellent levels of service and support for victims delivered by the multi-agency partnership. It was clear that the success of the domestic abuse court lay with the strong sense of partnership working including not only the police and COPFS but also other agencies notably ASSIST which was formed specifically to support those victims in this process. They provided their service not only to victims who subsequently became witnesses in the criminal justice system but also to those victims who, for whatever reason, found that the crime in which they had been victim did not result in court proceedings.
153. There were effective measures in place throughout the country which ensured that information was provided to the victim in domestic abuse cases if the accused was to be liberated from custody without court proceedings. Essentially this is to allow the victim to make arrangements for their safety, or removal from their home address if they consider this necessary, where the accused is not to be remanded by the court nor subject to restrictive and protective bail conditions. This is specifically addressed as a requirement in the domestic abuse Joint Protocol and we found a variety of processes in different areas as to how this took place - in fact in some areas there appeared to be duplication of effort as some agencies used a variety of means to get this information to the victim as soon as possible.
154. Overall we found the implementation of the domestic abuse protocol a good example of how COPFS and the police can achieve significant success in delivering change and improving outcomes for victims across both organisations.
155. While there were still some localised complaints of poor practice, often related to the attitude of individual officers, there was an overwhelming positive view on progress in this area. There was a high level of recognition from victims and stakeholder groups that there had been a vast improvement in understanding, investigation and prosecution of these crimes in recent years. Indeed there was a similarly high level of admission by police in particular that they had historically not dealt well with these situations. The change in police attitudes in particular over the years was very highly recognised and appreciated.
156. "Across 10 Fiscal areas (there was no response from one area) reported on, there was a view that the police and COPFS seem to be proactive in taking cases forward and that incidences of "no proceedings" had reduced."
And later they comment -
157. "The overall view was that the response from the police has improved and is generally positive…" 23
158. The Evaluation of The Pilot Domestic Abuse Court found a range of improvements in dealing with domestic abuse cases in this pilot. These ranged from increased efficiency of response, faster processing of cases, increased levels of guilty pleas, higher rates of conviction, better consistency and accountability together with an improved likelihood of participation and high level of satisfaction amongst victims. 24
159. The level of focus and strategic drive applied to this issue has been key to delivering these benefits. In relation to further possible improvements that we highlight in this report, we are encouraged at the level of positive change that such a joint and coordinated focus and drive can achieve.
160. Separately, victims of domestic abuse are highlighted as one of the category who should proactively receive information about Procurator Fiscal decisions. While we found victims of domestic abuse do receive information about the accused being liberated from custody (as mentioned above) we did not find evidence of any consistent arrangements to update victims of the final decisions in their cases (we return to this point in Processes).
161. Domestic abuse is complex issue with strong cultural underpinnings and ingrained attitudes. In recognising the progress that has been made we also underline the importance of sustaining this momentum through detailed guidelines and at times close supervision. We have commented on some instances when service delivery has not reached an acceptable standard. This change process has not been completed. We saw some evidence of how, if left unsupported, attitudes and behaviours could slip back. At a time when victims and victims' groups told us how their readiness to engage with the criminal justice system was informed by perceptions and even folklore, police and COPFS must continue their broadly successful efforts to replace negative perceptions and historical legacy with positive experiences.
162. Finally we highlight one further issue. The domestic abuse protocol has a strict definition of the personal relationships that fall within it. There was comment from some parts of COPFS, the police and the wider criminal justice community as to whether this should be reconsidered - to allow for other familial cases or violence against women cases, to be provided with the heightened investigative procedures and presumptions in favour of prosecution. We consider that with the changing make-up of Scotland demographically and as more is understood about familial crime and power relationships in crime, that there should be further debate about the definitions within the protocol to potentially allow the good practice which it has generated to be promulgated more widely yet within a similar context.
163. That COPFS/ ACPOS maintain a high level of supervision and monitoring of domestic abuse cases in line with the joint protocol and other related policies.
164. That COPFS and ACPOS consider whether their domestic abuse protocol could better reflect emerging knowledge about violence that takes place within the context of families and close relationships and within both existing and more recent communities in Scotland.