Caledonian System


The Caledonian System addresses men's abusive behaviour within intimate relationships, with integrated support services for women and children. Here, Gill McKinna, head of the Caledonian national team, explains how it operates.

The Caledonian System uses an integrated whole family approach to address domestic abuse of women by men in Scotland. It works with men who abuse, to change their behaviour, while also offering separate support to their partners and children.

Men who have been convicted of domestic abuse are referred to the programme either as part of a supervision requirement of a community payback order, or as a supervision requirement when released from prison. In certain areas of the country, men can also self-refer without going through the court process.

The Caledonian central team, which is part of Community Justice Scotland, oversees the training, development and expansion of the system.

The Caledonian system is currently available in 19 out of 32 local authorities across Scotland, covering 75 per cent of the population. It has been accredited by the Scottish Advisory Panel for Offender Rehabilitation, and the Scottish Government is committed to making it available to all local authorities.


The Caledonian men’s programme is designed to help men understand the links between their thoughts, feelings and abusive behaviour, and to invite and challenge them to rethink the attitudes and beliefs which have underpinned their behaviour. The programme activities are based on a comprehensive review of the evidence on risk and effectiveness. Included are individual sessions, group work and maintenance sessions. This work takes at least two years, and involves discussions, use of media, practical exercises, self-reflections, and planning for the future. 

It is made clear to the men that they must take responsibility for their choice of behaviour and that they are the ones who must change. They are asked to think about their behaviour in terms of the expectations they have of their partner and children, and also the expectations they feel are placed on them as men.

The women’s service is voluntary and aims to increase safety, reduce risk and improve women’s emotional and mental health, offering support, safety planning and practical help. The role of the children’s service is to ensure children are safe, as well as ensuring the rights of the child are respected and that their needs are met.

Although domestic abuse can occur in all types of relationships, this particular system deals with men abusing women in a heterosexual relationship.

Men who have completed the Caledonian programme are judged to be lower risk to partners and children, and women who have taken up the service have reported that it made them feel safer.[1]

The Council is carrying out activity designed to improve awareness of community-based sentencing options, including informational blogs.


[1] Caledonian System Evaluation: Analysis of a programme for tackling domestic abuse in Scotland - research findings - (