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Recorded Crimes and Offences Using Firearms, Scotland, 2003

DescriptionCovers crimes and offences recorded by the police in which a firearm was alleged to have been used or where a firearm was stolen.
ISBN0-7559-3827-5
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateOctober 27, 2004

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Statistical Bulletin
Criminal Justice Series CrJ/2004/7
RECORDED CRIMES AND OFFENCES INVOLVING FIREARMS, SCOTLAND, 2003

Published October 2004

A Scottish Executive National Statistics Publication

This document is also available in pdf format (192k)

Contents

1. INTRODUCTION
2. MAIN POINTS
3. COMMENTAR Y

Crimes and offences recorded in which a firearm was alleged to have been used
Crimes and offences cleared up in which a firearm was alleged to have been used

Analysis by police force area
Crimes and offences in which a firearm was stolen

4.APPENDIX OF TABLES
5.ANNEX : NOTES ON STATISTICS USED IN THIS BULLETIN

1. Introduction

This bulletin forms part of The Scottish Executive series of bulletins on the criminal justice system. It covers those crimes and offences recorded by the police in which a firearm was alleged to have been used or where a firearm was stolen. This information was submitted to The Scottish Executive by the eight Scottish police forces. Definitions of the terms and classifications used in the bulletin are given in the Annex. Numbers in the text have been rounded as appropriate.

Not all such crimes and offences are reported to the police. The extent of under-reporting is likely to vary considerably according to the seriousness of the crime or offence; for example, armed robberies are much more likely to be reported to the police than malicious damage caused by the firing of an airweapon. Moreover, the propensity of the public to report crimes and offences to the police is influenced by a number of factors and may therefore change over time; thus trends in the number of crimes and offences recorded may differ from trends in the number of crimes and offences committed

chart 1 Crimes and offences recorded by the police in which a firearm was alleged to have been used

To avoid unnecessary repetition of the term 'recorded crimes and offences' throughout this publication reference will simply be made to 'offences'. This should be interpreted to mean recorded crimes and offences. The reference to the 'use' of firearms throughout the bulletin should also be interpreted to include the 'alleged use' of firearms (see Annex Paragraph 5.3).

2. Main Points
  • In 2003 the Scottish police recorded 970 offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been used, a decrease of 9 per cent from the total of 1,065 recorded in 2002, and 50 per cent lower than the peak 1992 figure of 1,959.
    [ Note: the figures for 2001 and 2002 have been revised due to late returns of information from Strathclyde police. The 2001 and 2002 figures published in the previous bulletin indicated that there had been a 2 per cent decrease between these two years; the revised figures show an increase of 1 per cent.]
  • The use of firearms in criminal activity constituted only a small proportion of all offences recorded by the police in 2003; 3 per cent of recorded attempted murders (24 offences), 3 per cent of recorded robberies (113 offences) and 2 per cent of recorded homicides (2 offences). Less than half a per cent of recorded assaults (187 offences) and vandalism offences (331 offences) involved the alleged use of a firearm.
  • The number of offences involving the alleged use of a shotgun remained at historically low levels, increasing from 23 in 2002 to 24 in 2003.
  • The number of offences involving the alleged use of a pistol/revolver was at its lowest since 1990, down 17 per cent from 35 in 2002 to 29 in 2003.
  • The number of offences in which a firearm was fired and killed or caused injury to a person fell by nearly a quarter, from 335 in 2002 to 255 in 2003. Only five of these cases involved a shotgun or rifle; none of them involved a pistol or revolver.
  • In 2003, 48 per cent of all offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been used were cleared up, a slight decrease compared with the 49 per cent cleared up in 2002.
  • The Strathclyde police force area which contains 44 per cent of the Scottish population, accounted for the same percentage of all offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been used in 2003. More specifically, all homicides, 79 per cent of attempted murders, 78 per cent of recorded robberies, 64 per cent of Firearms Act 1968 offences, 56 per cent of reckless conduct with firearms offences, 50 per cent of assaults but only 15 per cent of vandalism offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been used took place in Strathclyde.
3. Commentary

3.1 Crimes and offences recorded in which a firearm was alleged to have been used

3.1.1 Crime/offence type

  • In 2003 the police recorded 970 offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been used, a decrease of 9 per cent when compared with the revised figure of 1,065 recorded in 2002, and 50 per cent lower than the peak 1992 figure of 1,959.
    [ Note: the figures for 2001 and 2002 have been revised due to late returns of information from Strathclyde police. The 2001 and 2002 figures published in the previous bulletin indicated that there had been a 2 per cent decrease between these two years; the revised figures show an increase of 1 per cent.]
  • The largest category of offence involving the use of a firearm in 2003 was vandalism, which constituted around one third of all recorded firearms offences, while assault accounted for about one fifth of all recorded firearms offences.
  • The number of recorded assaults decreased by 31 per cent from 271 in 2002 to 187 in 2003.
  • In Strathclyde, prior to 2001, and Lothian and Borders, prior to 2002, if a weapon was not seen or seen but not established, an assumption was made about what type of weapon this was. It was usually assumed that it was an airweapon and was recorded as such in the statistical return. However, there has been a change of this recording practice and if a weapon was not seen or seen but not established, it is now recorded as such and no assumption is made about what the weapon was. This had the effect of increasing the number of incidents involving an unidentified firearm and reducing those involving an airweapon. Subsequently, Lothian and Borders police began recording details of incidents using crime reports from members of the public. The complainants may identify the firearm involved as an airweapon, based on the type of damage caused, even if they have not seen the firearm. This has led to an increase in the alleged use of airweapons and a decrease in the alleged use of unidentified firearms. To enable meaningful comparisons to be made over time, the tables previously covering offences involving firearms other than an airweapon (which included those involving unidentified firearms) have been revised to cover offences involving identified firearms other than an airweapon
  • The pattern of offences, once those involving unidentified firearms or airweapons are excluded, shows the largest category of offences other than Firearms Act 1968 offences is assault, comprising 22 per cent of all offences.

3.1.2 Proportion of crimes/offences involving firearms

  • The use of firearms in criminal activity constituted only a small proportion of all offences recorded by the police in 2003; 3 per cent of recorded attempted murders (24 offences), 3 per cent of recorded robberies (113 offences) and 2 per cent of recorded homicides (2 offences). Less than half a per cent of recorded assaults (187 offences) and vandalism offences (331 offences) involved the alleged use of a firearm.

3.1.3 Type of firearm

  • In 37 per cent of offences involving firearms, the firearm involved was not identified. This compares with 44 per cent of offences where the firearm was not identified in 2002. See the comments in section 3.1.1 above for an explanation of this and the following point, which reflect changes in recording by Lothian and Borders Police.
  • Airweapons accounted for 43 per cent of all offences involving firearms in 2003, up from 31 per cent in 2002.
  • The second most common category where the type of firearm was identified was imitation firearms, used in 11 per cent of recorded offences in 2003.
  • The number of offences involving the alleged use of a pistol/revolver was at its lowest since 1990, down 17 per cent from 35 in 2002 to 29 in 2003.
  • The number of offences involving the alleged use of a shotgun remained at historically low levels, increasing from 23 in 2002 to 24 in 2003.
  • The number of offences involving a rifle each year are small; there were only 2 such offences in 2003.

chart 2 crimes and offences recorded by police as a percentage of selected crimes

3.1.4 Crime/offence type by main firearm used

  • In the two recorded homicides which involved the alleged use of a firearm in 2003, one shotgun and one unidentified firearm were used.
  • In 2003, in 17 of the 24 attempted murders the firearm could not be identified. Two shotguns, one rifle, three airweapons and one other weapon were used in the 7 other attempted murders.
  • An airweapon was used in 68 per cent of offences of vandalism in 2003. An airweapon was also the weapon used in 50 per cent of offences of reckless conduct with firearms and 41 per cent of assaults.

3.15 Result of the use of a firearm

  • Of the 970 offences involving the use of a firearm in 2003, 70 per cent involved the actual discharge of the firearm.
  • The number of offences in which a firearm was fired and killed or caused injury to a person fell from 335 in 2002 to 255 in 2003, a decrease of 24 per cent.
  • Property damage resulting from the discharge of a firearm accounted for 41 per cent of all offences (398), an increase from 33 per cent in 2002.
  • In 62 per cent of offences in which the firearm was not discharged, the firearm was used to threaten (179 offences in 2003 compared with 198 in 2002 - a decrease of 10 per cent).

3.1.6 Result of use of firearm by main firearm used

  • Of the 681 offences in which a firearm was actually fired, 55 per cent involved the alleged use of an airweapon. Of those offences involving an airweapon, 112 resulted in injury to a person and 255 resulted in damage to property.
  • Four of the incidents resulting in fatal or other injury involved a shotgun and one incident involved a rifle. None involved a pistol or revolver.
  • Where the main firearm used was unidentified, 1 offence resulted in fatal injuries while 103 offences caused injury.
  • An imitation firearm was fired in 17 offences, resulting in personal injury in 16 cases. Other types of firearms caused injury on 18 occasions.

chart 3 recorded crimes and offences involving a firearm: results of use, 2003

3.1.7 Crime/offence type by use of firearm

  • Of the 113 robberies, a firearm was used to threaten in 105 (93 per cent) of such offences, reflecting the nature of such crimes.
  • In assaults involving a firearm, the firearm was fired and resulted in injury in 86 per cent of such cases and was used to threaten in a further 10 per cent.

3.1.8 Location of use

  • In 2003, 35 per cent of offences (338) involving the alleged use of a firearm occurred in a dwelling, an increase of 29 (9 per cent) on the previous year.
  • Two per cent of offences involving the alleged use of a firearm occurred in banks, building societies or post offices, a marginal increase from 20 offences in 2002 to 21 in 2003. A further 32 per cent of offences occurred on public highways, a decrease of 17 per cent from 378 in 2002 to 315 in 2003.

3.1.9 Victim characteristics

  • In 2003, the main victim was aged 21 years or over in 110 out of 255 offences (43 per cent) where firearms were alleged to have been fired causing injury .
  • The main victim in 72 per cent of such offences was male.
  • There were three offences in which a police officer was shot causing injury.

hart 4 recorded crimes and offences involving a firearm: location of use

3.2 Crimes and offences cleared up in which a firearm was alleged to have been used

3.2.1 Clear - up rates

  • In 2003, 48 per cent of all offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been used were cleared up, a slight decrease from 49 per cent in 2002.
  • The clear up rate for offences of homicide with firearms was 50 per cent in 2003 (although this is based on a very small number of homicides, 2 in 2003). The clear up rate for attempted murders was 50 per cent in 2003 (12 out of 24 attempted murders), up from 21 per cent in 2002.
  • The clear up rate for assault with firearms increased from 56 per cent in 2002 to 63 per cent in 2003.
  • The clear up rate for robbery offences decreased slightly from 45 per cent in 2002 to 43 per cent in 2003.
  • There was an increase in the clear up rate for vandalism offences from 12 per cent in 2002 to 17 per cent in 2003.

3.2.2 Accused characteristics

  • The total number of offences cleared up, in which there was an accused, decreased by 11 per cent from 526 in 2002 to 469 in 2003, mainly reflecting the decrease in the number of offences committed.
  • The number of offences cleared up in 2003 where the main accused was aged 15 years or under was 124, representing 26 per cent of offences cleared up. The main accused was aged 16 - 20 years in 128 cases (27 per cent), and was 21 or over in 217 (46 per cent) of these cases.
  • Sixty one per cent of firearm offences involving young persons aged 15 or under related to the use of an airweapon, this proportion decreasing to 21 per cent for those accused aged 21 or over.

3.3 Analysis by police force area

  • The Strathclyde police force area, which contains 44 per cent of the Scottish population, accounted for the same proportion (44 per cent) of all offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been used in 2003.
  • More specifically, all homicides, 79 per cent of attempted homicides, 78 per cent of recorded robberies, 64 per cent of Firearms Act 1968 offences, 56 per cent of reckless conduct with firearms offences, 50 per cent of assaults but only 15 per cent of vandalism offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been used took place in Strathclyde.

3.4 Crimes and offences in which a firearm was stolen

  • During 2003 the Scottish police recorded 24 offences in which a firearm other than an airweapon was stolen, a decrease of 11 per cent from 27 in 2002.
  • There was 1 recorded theft of a rifle in 2003, down from 8 recorded in 2002, while the number of stolen shotguns rose from 10 in 2002 to 13 in 2003 and the number of stolen pistols/revolvers rose from 2 to 4.
  • The number of stolen firearms falling into the 'Other' category decreased from 7 in 2002 to 6 in 2003.