Note: This resource has not been updated for a number of years, and due to changes in legislation, what is represented here may no longer reflect current best practice.

Case study: criminal justice & domestic violence

Authors: Mel Cadman & Kathryn Cameron
video transcript

Ian and solicitor


It is now 3 months later. On the advice of his solicitor Ian pled not guilty to assault at his first appearance in the summary Sheriff court; on the basis of the evidence which has come to light, his solicitor is now recommending Ian change his plea. She warns him a 'tough' sentence seems certain, given the Sheriff's reputation and in view of the zero tolerance approach in relation to domestic violence.

Ian's life has changed drastically for the worse recently. His in-laws have virtually shunned him because of his behaviour to Shavita and are fully supporting her desire to keep him away from her and the children; and retain regular contact with them. His father-in-law has now retired from the business and his uncle - who is now the managing partner - suspended him from work 6 weeks ago after Ian had a serious car accident knocking down a pedestrian when he lost control of the car and smashed it into a bus shelter. He was breathalysed, found to be nearly 4 times over the alcohol limit, and charged on 3 counts: driving while over the legal limit, dangerous driving whereby he hit a person to her severe injury or danger to her life, and destruction of council property. He is also facing prosecution for breaching the marital interdict preventing him going near his wife and children 2 months ago. His brother-in-law maintains that this kind of behaviour will bring the firm into disrepute and has asked him to resign; Ian is currently considering his position.

Ian is now receiving medication for his serious depression and his GP has talked to him about contacting the local social work services team. His solicitor spends a bit of time talking to him about the forthcoming trial but also about what's happening in his life at the moment.

Reflective questions

Assume the court decides to defer sentence until an SER has been prepared. In relation to such an SER, explore:

  • The statutory basis for ordering the SER
  • The influence of other government 'guidance' in detailing its purpose and role in sentencing
  • Why an SER might be considered by the Sheriff in these circumstances
  • Whether Ian is obliged to cooperate in the production of the SER and what rights, if any, he has to expect the areas covered in the SER to observe limits around 'confidentiality': in particular should the pending charges be included within the body of the report?

The various sentencing options available to the court and that which, in your opinion, would be:

  • Most appropriate
  • Most likely
  • The role of the social work department in working with Ian throughout this phase