Pilot introduced in Glasgow to seek early resolution of domestic abuse cases

Pilot introduced in Glasgow to seek early resolution of domestic abuse cases

A successful domestic abuse pilot where evidence is shared and agreed prior to a trial diet being assigned has been extended to Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Justice Secretary Angela Constance visited the court yesterday and heard from Sheriff Principal Aisha Anwar how the Summary Case Management (SCM) pilot had made a positive impact in reducing the number of victims and witnesses in summary cases having to attend court.

Following the success of the pilot at Dundee, Hamilton and Paisley Sheriff Courts it has now been introduced for domestic abuse cases at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

The SCM pilot seeks to reduce the number of unnecessary hearings at summary level. It will achieve this by facilitating early disclosure of evidence, early engagement between the Crown and defence and early judicial case management. It aims to reduce the number of cases set down for trial unnecessarily and to reduce the volume of late pleas of guilty and late decisions to discontinue proceedings.

An interim report published in November 2023 revealed that as a result of the pilot:

  • At least 250 summary trials did not require to be assigned in the pilot courts, directly as a result of early resolution due to SCM;
  • There was a 25 per cent reduction in the first citation of civilian witnesses in domestic abuse cases in the aggregated pilot courts; and
  • A 34 per cent reduction in the first citation of police witnesses in domestic abuse cases in the aggregated pilot courts.

In 2022/23, 2,979 complaints in domestic abuse cases called for an intermediate diet at Glasgow Sheriff Court but just 510 trials were called where evidence was led.

Sheriff Principal Anwar, who has been leading the development of the SCM pilot, said: “The pilot aims to improve the efficiency of our summary criminal courts to the benefit of complainers, witnesses, the accused and wider society by reducing the number of cases that are set down for trial unnecessarily.

“Under the pilot, with early disclosure of evidence, judicial oversight and meaningful discussions between the Crown and the defence, cases should resolve earlier.

“I was keen to build on the early success of the pilot by introducing it to the busiest court in Scotland. That has been possible as a result of excellent cross justice collaboration between the police, the Crown, the defence, SCTS, the judiciary and the Scottish Legal Aid Board and I thank all those involved for their participation.”

Ms Constance said: “This way of working has radically changed how courts manage summary criminal cases. It has been a great success in the three sheriff courts where it was piloted and has spared victims and witnesses appearing in court to give evidence.

“I am pleased to see the number of cases that have been resolved without the need for going to trial – freeing up court and police officers’ time.

“Expanding this to the Glasgow domestic abuse courts will mean many more victims and witnesses will benefit from early engagement with prosecutors with a view to cases resolving at a much earlier stage, sparing the need for them to attend court.”

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