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Understanding Domestic Homicide in Scotland: Exploring Patterns, Promoting Safeguarding

Professor Lesley McMillan, project Principal Investigator, is Professor of Criminology at Glasgow Caledonian University and is an Associate Director: Public Protection at the Scottish Institute for Policing Research. 

Co-Investigator: Dr Rachel McPherson, University of Glasgow

Co-Investigator: Dr Maureen Taylor, Glasgow Caledonian University

Project Summary

In the UK, over the past ten years, on average a woman is killed by her partner or former partner every 4 days. While our understanding of domestic abuse in all its forms has increased in recent years, we know significantly less about how this leads to homicide. Current data sets fail to unpack the complexity of factors that precede domestic homicide, yet this knowledge and understanding of the people, places and their interactions may offer us the best opportunities to prevent further deaths. Similarly, some deaths are ‘hidden’ such as suicides that are preceded by domestic abuse, but little is known about this phenomenon. It is these gaps in knowledge that this collaborative project between Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Glasgow, Police Scotland and violence against women and girls (VAWG) public and third sector partners seeks to fill.

Our overarching aim is to work collaboratively and build on our existing relationships between the universities and Police Scotland, the Scottish Institute for Policing Research and relevant third sector organisations to more fully understand domestic homicide of women, the patterns of behaviour that precede it, the challenges it presents in terms of prevention, and the opportunities that may exist for safeguarding. We aim to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practice between us as we co-design the project and create a community of practice around domestic homicide in Scotland.

The project will begin by examining existing literature on domestic homicide before undertaking a focused pilot study analysing police case file data for a sample of domestic homicides over a period of ten years. This will create a unique ‘data profile’ for each case derived from information about victims, perpetrators, the offence and context in which it occurred. We will develop offence timelines and typologies and unpack the complex interpersonal and contextual dynamics and patterns across cases that we analyse. Our work will also draw on social network analysis to understand the dynamics of perpetration, victimisation and risk, and create a visual representation of the dynamic nature of relationships, events and contexts to identify future opportunities for safeguarding and prevention.

Our project will be supported by four focused collaborative workshops with project partners – Police Scotland and public and developing a methodology for a larger project; ‘hidden homicides’, domestic abuse and suicide, and the further development of a follow-on study. These will be structured using the World Café method, supported by a professional illustrator to tell a visual story of the development of this community of practice, key milestones and learning points.

The project will produce a range of outputs for a variety of audiences including: an online webinar/conference; a digital learning resource using innovative learning software for dissemination to stakeholders and their organisations to strengthen the community of practice and create further partnerships and connections and a project website. We will also produce short research briefings for practitioners, policy makers and academics, a final project report including an executive summary and infographics, and at least two academic articles for publication in leading journals. We will also co-produce a further larger collaborative project for which we will seek additional funding with a view to examining a wider sample of domestic homicides, attempted domestic homicides and ‘hidden homicides’ of women in Scotland.

Project Outputs

Regular updates and outputs arising from this project can be downloaded below. 







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