Domestic Abuse: Criminal Justice and the Scottish Courts

Join the discussion on domestic abuse, recognised by the Scottish Government as a major social and criminal justice issue.

An event co-sponsored by the University of Edinburgh Centre for Theology and Public Issues, and Centre for Research on Families and Relationships.

Thursday 21 January at 5 pm in the Martin Hall, New College, Mound Place Edinburgh

Speaker: Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle


  • Mhairi McGowan (ASSIST),
  • Dr Marsha Scott (Scottish Women’s Aid),
  • Laura Dunlop QC

Domestic abuse is a major social and criminal justice issue, recognised by the Scottish Government as gender based, and a priority for Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. The flagship specialist domestic abuse court in Glasgow has been widely admired as a model of good practice. But is it time to review and reform the role of criminal justice in responding to this issue in Scotland? Sheriff Derek Pyle has been the Sheriff Principal of Grampian, Highlands and Islands since June 2012. He is also a member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland.

At this event, he will give a lecture entitled Domestic Abuse: A Judge’s Dilemma. Where do we go now? Outlining the history, aims and context for current public policy including the domestic abuse courts, Sheriff Principal Pyle will assess the successes and failures of these policies, and will present proposals for the next stage of development in criminal justice, to address the ‘iceberg’ rather than the ‘tip’ of domestic abuse. A panel of experts will respond to the lecture and proposals, and there will be time for audience questions and discussion. Mhairi McGowan is head of ASSIST, a Glasgow based specialist domestic abuse advocacy and support service which aims to ensure that all victims of domestic abuse are safe, informed and supported throughout their involvement with the criminal justice system. Dr Marsha Scott is Chief Executive Officer of Scottish Women’s Aid, the lead organization in Scotland working towards prevention of domestic abuse. Laura Dunlop QC is a member of the Faculty of Advocates, and is Procurator to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

This event took place on 21st January 2016.