2 Trends in Justice and Community Safety
The preceding chapter described important contextual factors affecting the justice system. Understanding how those contextual factors change over time is key to understanding developments in justice outcomes.
This chapter sets out some key trends in justice outcomes and compares Scotland’s current performance both to international peers and to our own historical performance. This analysis helps to identify priority areas for intervention, as set out in the strategy document. This chapter is divided into three main parts - criminal justice, civil and administrative justice, and community safety - and a short section on legal aid.
2.1 Criminal Justice
Viewing criminal justice performance in Scotland in historical perspective is complex but nevertheless important, not least for identifying future priorities.
As noted in the contextual chapter, crime takes many forms and different types of crime increase and decrease in importance reflecting factors such as shifting social norms and technological change. New types of crime appear (e.g. “e-crime”) while others become obsolete. At any given time, certain crimes are on an increasing trend while others are in decline. Variable practice over time in law enforcement for certain crimes and in developments affecting detection rates and public reporting of crime affect the recorded incidence of crime. Demography also needs to be taken into account: as the population expands it is feasible for the incidence of crime (on a per capita basis) to fall even as the number of crimes in absolute terms increases. This may give an impression of increasing crime, even when the average risk of being a victim of such crime is falling.
Moreover, crime trends do not follow smooth trajectories: even crimes on a clear upward or downward long-term trend are likely to experience potentially significant short-term variations around that trend that may confuse the picture. Judgements need to be formed about whether changes in those trends represent short-term “noise” or significant turning points. These changes in the nature and perception of crime need to be understood in considering the incidence and pattern of crime in Scotland over time.
Data limitations prevent our getting a complete picture of how crime has evolved over the very long term. Nevertheless, some data exist for particular types of crime such as homicide. Research looking at international homicide rates running back over centuries finds that societies in general have become less violent places, reflecting the emergence and development of justice systems and universal education, which has increased self control and empathy amongst the general population.
This research on very long-term trends reconfirms the obvious point that state intervention - both through justice organisations and through other public services such as education - matters for the delivery of justice outcomes. However, it provides little guidance on more detailed policy choices. For that we need to look to more recent data and developments.
Data over the last half a century show that overall crime in Scotland was on a rising long-term trend, which seems to have reached a peak in recent years and since begun to decline. Overall recorded crimes and offences rose from 431,000 in 1970 to a peak of 1,076,700 in 2004/5 and have since fallen to 858,200 in 2011/12.
In particular, the data shows that, over the second half of the 20th century, Scotland became a more violent society. For example, data for the period since the end of World War 2 shows the homicide rate in Scotland increasing from an average annual rate of 6.2 per million in 1946-50 to a peak of 27.7 per million in 1986-87 to 1990-91 (1988-89 includes the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing; excluding Lockerbie, the 5 year moving average rate peaks at 24.3 between 1992-93 to 1996-97). More recently it has been on a downward trend, falling to an average rate of 19.8 per million in 2006-07 to 2010-11. Scotland’s homicide rate has been consistently above that for England and Wales since the late 1950s.
The historical trend is similar for violent crime as demonstrated in Chart 2. This shows that non-sexual crimes of violence increased from 5,500 in 1971 to a peak of 16,800 in 1992. Thereafter there has been a downward trend to 9,500 in 2011-12.
Chart 2: Non-sexual crimes of violence recorded by the police, 1971 to 2011-12
Knife crime remains a particular problem. Despite recent falls in its incidence (for example, a fall in recorded crimes of handling an offensive weapon from 10,100 in 2006-07 to 5,600 in 2011-12) during the last five years, over half of all homicides in Scotland were carried out with a sharp instrument.
As discussed in the context chapter, the factors associated with violent crime are complex. Nevertheless there is strong evidence that both problem alcohol and drug use are strongly associated with violent crime. For example, the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) indicates that the victim thought that the offender was under the influence of alcohol in 63% of violent crimes and under the influence of drugs in 34% of violent crimes.
Consistent data for overall recorded crime in Scotland only begins in 1970. Charting these data helps to highlight the developments since then, as illustrated in Chart 3.
Chart 3: Crimes and offences recorded by the police, 1970 to 2011-12
Contraventions of Scottish criminal law are divided for statistical purposes into crimes and offences. “Crime" is generally used for the more serious criminal acts; the less serious are termed "offences", although the term "offence" may also be used in relation to serious breaches of criminal law. The distinction is made only for working purposes and the "seriousness" of the offence is generally related to the maximum sentence that can be imposed.
Separating this overall figure between crimes and offences, as in Chart 3 above, shows recorded crime in Scotland peaking at 592,800 in 1991, since when it has been on a pronounced downward trend, currently standing at 314,200. Offences peaked at 638,600 in 2004-05, since when they have been on a slight downward trend, currently standing at 544,000.
The downward trend in recorded crime in Scotland over the past two decades is corroborated by evidence from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey. This shows that the percentage of respondents reporting they were a victim of crime has fallen from 27% in 1992 to 18% in 2010-11. This downward trend is slightly less clear when estimating the overall number of crimes based on the survey responses (as distinct from the number of victims). The Scottish crime surveys in 1992 and 2008 both estimated just over 1 million crimes; this fell to around 875,000 crimes in the 2010-11 survey. It should be noted that Crime Surveys prior to the introduction of the new Scottish Crime and Justice Survey in 2008-09 had much smaller sample sizes and the methodology was inconsistent. For that reason caution must be exercised when comparing trend data from before 2008-09.
Chart 4: Number of crimes estimated in Scottish crime surveys, 1992 to 2010-11
Chart 5, below, demonstrates the main changes in the numbers of different types of crime and offence over the last 40 years. For example Fire-Raising/Vandalism, Miscellaneous Offences and Motoring Offences recorded by the police have all more than doubled since 1971. There were 4,900 Other Crimes recorded in 1971; this increased more than thirteen times to 67,800 in 2011-12, although this is partly as a result of changes in recording practices. The increases in the number of Non-sexual crimes of violence and Sexual offences have been more modest in comparison, with increases of 72% and 60% respectively since 1971. The number of recorded Crimes of Dishonesty also initially increased by 147% between 1971 and 1991 (from 173,900 to 430,200) but has since fallen back (to 154,300) below the level seen in 1971.
Chart 5: Crimes and offences recorded by the police, by type, 1971 to 2011-12
Sentencing and Offender Management
We have seen above how the volume of crimes and offences in Scotland has evolved over time, requiring the justice institutions that deal with offending to adapt in response. One aspect of this concerns the sentencing and management of convicted offenders.
2.1.1 Trends in sentencing
The number of people convicted in Scottish courts has fallen over the last 20 years. Numbers fell from around 175,000 in 1990-91 to a low of 110,000 in 2000-01. Volumes then increased before falling back again to 115,000 in 2010-11.
This latest reduction in numbers convicted coincides with recent falls in levels of recorded crime and is also in line with recent reforms to the Summary Justice system. These reforms included a range of measures which were designed to ensure that fewer cases go to court needlessly and more are dealt with by non-court actions (such as Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notices and Fiscal Fines) where it is appropriate to do so.
Within this overall context, sentencing trends have also changed over the last 20 years. As shown in Chart 6, the use of monetary penalties (fines and compensation orders) has fallen consistently over the last 20 years, as a proportion of all people convicted. In 1990-91, monetary penalties accounted for 78% of all main disposals, whereas in 2010-11 the equivalent figure was 59%.
Chart 6: Main penalties imposed by Scottish courts, 1990-91 to 2010-11
Conversely, the proportion of both community and custodial sentences has increased gradually over the same period. Several new types of community sentences were introduced over this period, some with the explicit aim of dealing with the underlying causes of offending and others to ensure more proportionate sanctions for non-compliance. Such sentences include Supervised Attendance Orders for fine default (mid 90s), Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (available across Scotland from 2002), Restriction of Liberty Orders (from 2002), and most recently, Community Payback Orders (early 2011).
As well as custodial sentences representing an increased share of all sentences imposed, the average length of custodial sentence has also increased over time. In 1990-91 the average length was around 6 months; by 2010-11 this had risen to around 9 months. The overall shift in sentencing patterns can be attributed to factors such as the type of crimes committed and prosecuted in court, as well as policy changes. These changes are complex and inter-related, but one of the more notable examples is the increase in average custodial sentence lengths for handling an offensive weapon, which increased from around 120 days in the early 2000s to 288 days in 2010-11 following 2006 legislation to increase the maximum sentence for carrying a knife from 2 years to 4 years.
The number of females receiving a custodial sentence has increased considerably over the last 10 years or so, although the overall proportion is still small in comparison to males. As at 30 June 2011, females made up 6% of the prison population, and the age profile of women prisoners tends to be somewhat older than for men (Chart 7).
Chart 7: Number of prisoners at 30 June 2011, by age and gender
2.1.2 Trends in the use of prison
A number of developments in recent years have resulted in significant impacts on the volume and nature of the prison population. There have been changes in justice organisations’ responses to unlawful behaviour, changes in sentencing patterns (as noted above), and a series of initiatives primarily aimed at improving the efficiency of the criminal court system. These changes contributed to an increase in overall prisoner numbers from the 1990s. The rate of increase accelerated during the 2000s, resulting in a rise of 32% between 2001-02 and 2011-12 to an annual average daily population of 8,178. This has happened despite the introduction of measures such as the Supervised Attendance Order to reduce the use of prison for fine defaulters, and early release of low risk prisoners on home detention curfew.
Over a longer time-frame, the increase in the prison population in Scotland has been even more dramatic, rising approximately four-fold in both absolute and per-capita terms since the first half of the 20th century.
Chart 8: Prison population in Scotland, 1980 to 2011-12
While the prison population has been increasing steadily since the early 2000s, the rate of increase was particularly marked between 2005-06 and 2008-09.
The patterns of change have not been the same for all segments of the prison population. The increase in the long-term population sentenced to four years or more has been gradual but sustained over the years, and this is what is driving the longer term trend. The shorter-term increases seen between 2005-06 and 2008-09 were due to increased intake of short-term and remand prisoners (Chart 9)..
Chart 9: Prison population by custody type, 2001-02 to 2011-12
Chart 10 depicts the evolution of the prison population by type of crime. The gradual increase in the long term population imprisoned for crimes of violence is mainly driven by a rise in receptions for serious assault and attempted murder.
Chart 10: Prison population by crime type, as at 30 June in each year
Reoffending accounts for a significant proportion of overall offending. Reconviction rates, as a measure of reoffending, are an important longer-term, national indicator of performance for the second phase of the Reducing Reoffending programme.
Two measures are currently used to inform the reducing reoffending programme, these are:
- the reconviction frequency rate: the average number of reconvictions within 1 year from the date of the index conviction per 100 offenders; and
- the reconviction rate: the percentage of offenders who were reconvicted one or more times within 1 year from the relevant date of the index conviction.
Chart 11: Reconviction frequency rates and reconviction rates: 1997-98 to 2008-09
Over the past seven years there has been a decline in the one year reconviction rate, from 32.9 per cent in 2002-03 to 31.0 per cent in 2008-09, the lowest level in 11 years. Over the same time period, the reconviction frequency rate fell from 63.9 to 57.9
Young people are more likely to be reconvicted than older people, but the gap has been closing in recent years, as shown in Chart 12. For example, the under 21 age group had a reconviction frequency rate of 93.4 in 1997-98, which fell to 70.3 in 2008-09, a fall of just over 23 reconvictions for every 100 young offenders.
Reconviction rates vary depending on the nature of the original crime or offence. For example, people with problem drug use given Drug Treatment and Testing Orders in 2008-09 were reconvicted nearly three times as often as other offenders in the year after the original conviction (162 reconvictions per 100 offenders, compared to 58 for all offenders).
Chart 12: One year reconviction frequency rates by age: 1997-98 to 2008-09 cohorts
Drawing comparisons between Scotland’s crime data and data from other countries is problematic owing to differences in crime definitions and in data collection and law enforcement practices between jurisdictions. Nevertheless, available data permit us to draw inferences about criminal justice priorities in Scotland.
Looking at overall recorded crime, Scotland’s trend bears similarities to that in other developed countries.
National sources of information about crime show considerable differences in approach and coverage, making it necessary to exercise caution in making direct comparisons between jurisdictions. Eurostat recommends that trends rather than raw figures are used to compare crime data between different areas, although even this method has its limitations in ignoring the relative sizes of various countries and the differing structures of crimes recorded by different police forces. It is therefore difficult to draw robust conclusions about the differences in crime rates between Scotland and other countries and so it is recommended that no significance is attached to the Scotland line being higher than the overall trend line in Chart 13 because this is highly influenced by data recording differences. However, the overall trend picture appears to suggest a steady increase since 1970 with a period of stabilisation and then a downturn beginning in the 1990s.
Chart 13: Recorded Crime in Scotland compared to other countries (based on Eurostat figures for 19 countries (including Canada and USA)), 1970 to 2000
Due to the serious nature of the crime, homicide statistics tend to be universally reported. Homicide definitions vary less between countries than they do for other crime types, facilitating the international comparison of homicide figures. Scotland’s homicide rate (on a per capita basis) has been consistently above that for England & Wales since the late 1950s. As shown in Chart 14 below, the average homicide rate in Scotland between 2006 and 2008 was 2.14 victims per 100,000 population. This was higher than the corresponding rates in England & Wales (1.35) and in Northern Ireland (1.52). Scotland’s rate was similar to Finland (2.34), Bulgaria (2.27), Romania (2.08), Czech Republic (2.03) and Ireland (2.00). Lithuania (8.76) and Estonia (6.60) had by far the highest rates in 2006-08 in the EU.
It is not possible to compare most types of crime between Scotland and England & Wales, due to the different legal systems and definitions of crimes used. Analysis of the SCJS and British Crime Surveys, however, suggests that 25% of crime in Scotland was violent crime, compared to 23% of crime measured by the BCS in England and Wales being violent crime.
It is possible to make some comparisons for handling offensive weapon crimes. Although the population of Scotland is around ten per cent of that in England and Wales, the number of persons sentenced for crimes of handling an offensive weapon in Scotland (2,855 in 2009-10) is disproportionately high, at 22 per cent of the number in England and Wales (12,756 in 2009). In addition, comparison of sentencing trends for handling an offensive weapon between Scotland and the rest of the UK also shows that the percentage of persons receiving a custodial sentence for possession of a knife or offensive weapon was 31% in Scotland in 2010-11, considerably higher than the 20% and 22% sentenced to custody in England & Wales and Northern Ireland respectively in 2010. For handling an offensive weapon, the average custodial sentence length was 165 days in England & Wales (2010) compared to an average of 288 days in Scotland (2010-11).
Chart 14: Homicides per 100,000 population by country, annual average for 2006-08
As noted above, while many factors combine to explain the incidence of violent crime, alcohol is known to be an important factor. Alcohol consumption has doubled in the UK since the 1950s. In Scotland, alcohol sales per capita are 20% higher than in England and Wales.
In terms of sentencing and offender management, Scotland imprisons a relatively high proportion of its population. Comparing ourselves specifically with England and Wales, a much higher proportion of offenders is sent to prison in Scotland (13%) than in England and Wales (7%). However, the average custodial sentence length is shorter in Scotland (9 months) than in England and Wales (14 months). In other words, we imprison more people in Scotland, but we keep them there for a shorter period.
In terms of prison population, as outlined in Chart 15, Scotland’s imprisonment rate is 153 per 100,000 population; similar to England & Wales at 152 per 100,000. This contrasts with rates of about 100 per 100,000 or below for most of Britain’s neighbours and below 80 per 100,000 for Switzerland and the Nordic countries.
Chart 15: Incarceration rate per 100,000 population by country, 2010
Estimated costs of crime
Figure 1 below provides a snapshot of recorded crime and offences in Scotland. The areas in the chart are proportional to the incidence of each type of crime. This demonstrates (and this is corroborated by the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) that much of reported crime is relatively minor, low-end violence and disorder.
Figure 1: Recorded Crime in 2011-12
A - Other non-sexual crimes of violence (2,475) D - Rape & Attempted Rape (1,274)
B - Robbery (2,244) E - Other crimes (333)
C - Other crimes of indecency (2,612) F - Prostitution (567)
However this sort of view of crime data takes no account of the social or economic cost of crime - e.g. acknowledging that a murder has a greater cost than a breach of the peace. Figure 2 below makes adjustments to take account of social and economic costs. It is based on new analysis undertaken by the Scottish Government based on work completed by the UK Home Office, and therefore uses proxy measures, factors and analysis that were developed on non-Scottish data on the economic and social costs of crime against individuals and households.
Figure 2: Economic and Social Cost of Crime in 2010-11
Total Cost - £4.9 billion NB - Does not include fraud or motoring offences
A - Other crimes of indecency (£46m) D - Theft by OLP (£7m)
B - Drunkenness (£11m) E - Fire raising (£24m)
C - Robbery (£29m) F - Crimes against public justice (£56m)
G - Handling and offensive weapon (£13m)
The estimates of the economic and social cost of different crime types presented in Figure 2 demonstrate both the overall total cost of crime and the relative costs imposed by different crime types.
The average costs of crime act as a proxy for the seriousness of crime, so more serious crimes represent a much larger proportion of the overall cost than they do the overall volume of crime. This analysis points to the importance of tackling crimes of violence (including sexual crimes) because of their significant social and economic cost.
High volume crimes, such as crimes of dishonesty (e.g. shoplifting, housebreaking and other theft) do not have particularly high average costs and therefore they do not represent as large a proportion of the overall socio-economic cost of crime as might be expected.
Taken together, these international and historical data both indicate that, while there must be continued investment and effort to reduce crime generally, reducing violent crime in particular should be a priority.
Serious organised crime costs the Scottish economy and society billions of pounds each year. In 2010 the Serious Organised Crime Group Mapping Project showed that over 350 crime groups (including over 4,000 individuals) were operating in Scotland. Groups were found to be involved in a wide range of crime types, from drug importation and money laundering to counterfeiting and robbery, and the top 20 highest threat groups at that time impacted across all eight of Scotland’s police forces.
The illicit drugs trade, for example, is a major area of organised crime. The social and economic costs of drugs misusein Scotland were estimated to bearound £3.5 billionin 2006[*]. Serious organised crime groups are also involved in fraud. The UK National Fraud Authority estimates the cost of fraud for the UK as a whole at £73 billion in 2012 - implying that the cost of fraud in Scotland could run into billions of pounds each year.
This underlines the important of tackling serious organised crime as part of the broader effort to reduce crime.
2.2 Legal Aid
Legal aid in Scotland is an important public service. It helps people to defend or pursue their rights if they cannot afford to do so, so is a significant factor in providing access to justice. It plays an important role in the justice system and contributes to the efficient operation of the courts, prisons and police stations.
The total cost of the legal aid fund in Scotland in 2010-11 was £161.4m, an increase of around £11m on the previous year, with criminal legal expenditure (£104m) being twice as much as civil legal expenditure (£52m).
The cost per person of legal aid in Scotland was around £31 in 2010-11, compared to £40 in England and Wales. Most of this difference is from civil legal aid, with the cost per person in Scotland (£10) being just over half of the cost per person in England and Wales (£18).
A greater proportion of the population is eligible for civil legal aid in Scotland than in England and Wales; the Scottish Government extended eligibility to around three-quarters of Scotland’s people in April 2009, while in England and Wales eligibility levels fell from 52% in 1998 to 29% in 2007.
2.3 Civil & Administrative Justice
As with criminal justice, developments in civil and administrative justice outcomes are affected by the broader contextual factors described above. Changes in social norms and behaviours are particularly important. Economic factors are key to issues around debt and repossession. Legislative changes - often reflecting social norms, notably in relation to equalities - have had a bearing on the number of administrative justice cases.
In this section we define a civil justice problem as a problem or event for which a civil legal remedy is available, whether or not that remedy is used. Key types of problem include disputes with neighbours, faulty goods, family breakdown, housing, debt, welfare benefits and mental health problems.
Although there has been a small decline in the percentage of people reporting a civil justice problem since 2008-09 the numbers are still high (27% of the population). Those who are less well off are more likely to experience a problem. There is also an association between crime and civil justice problems as both victims of crime and offenders show a higher than average prevalence of civil justice issues. Only around half of problems are solved. Of those that are solved around two thirds used some form of help and advice.
Evidence from the SCJS shows that, although there has been a slight decrease in the prevalence of civil justice problems (from 30% in 2008/09 to 27% in 2010/11), they are still widespread. This compares to the equivalent figure of 33% for England and Wales in 2010.
Chart 16 below shows the relative incidence of the major types of civil justice problems in Scotland.
Chart 16: Percentage of adults who experienced a civil law problem in the last three years, by type of civil law problem experienced
The equivalent data from the 2008-09 SCJS is almost identical to that used to produce the chart above for 2010-11, implying some stability in the relative incidence of such problems.
Various groups of people are more likely to have experienced civil justice problems over the past three years (recalling that the national average is 27%):
- 55% of single parents
- 54% of people who would find it impossible to find £100 for an unexpected expense
- 51% of offenders (self reported)
- 46% of unemployed people who are looking for work
- 44% of people living in households with less than £5,000 income
- 40% of victims of crime
- 36% of disabled people
The presence of the unemployed, those on low incomes and people who have little financial flexibility on the list above suggests that people who are less well off are more likely to suffer disproportionately from civil justice problems.
The higher prevalence for victims of crime and offenders illustrates that civil and criminal justice problems tend to go hand in hand, with causality potentially running in both directions.
Civil justice problems tend to cluster, both around particular individuals - with certain people experiencing multiple problems - and in particular geographies. For example, 35% of those living in the 15% most deprived areas in Scotland (according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) suffer from civil justice problems, compared to around a quarter of those living in the rest of Scotland.
The evidence tells us that resolution of civil justice problems is patchy. Of those problems reported in the 2010-11 survey, only 53% were considered resolved, leaving almost half with their problems unresolved. For problems that people had attempted to resolve, 63% of people used help or advice to resolve them. Almost 70% of this advice came from formal sources; the remainder came from friends and family. This underlines the importance of effective advice and information to resolving civil justice problems. (The Making Justice Work programme is developing a project to improve access to justice through co-ordinating the delivery of publicly funded legal advice services and other initiatives including enhancing public legal capability.)
For people suffering from civil justice problems, the impacts of those problems range from inconvenience to substantial threat to comfort and security. Evidence from England & Wales has shown that over half of problems (51%) had at least one adverse effect. Over a quarter of problems led to stress-related illness, with physical ill health, loss of confidence and loss of income also being reported to follow from more than one in eight problems 
Time series data on the incidence of civil justice problems in Scotland is limited. One of the few reliable historical datasets gives the number of civil cases initiated in Sheriff Courts and the Court of Session. These data do not include cases appearing in other courts, nor do they reflect the many more civil justice problems that are never taken to court. The data are nevertheless important in terms of monitoring the impact of civil justice problems on the court system in Scotland. These court data show cases peaking in the early 1990s, at almost 200,000 cases per annum and then following a downward trend to below 100,000 cases per annum, as shown in Chart 17 below.
This downward trend is dominated by a fall in the number of small claims cases in the Sheriff Courts (89,000 down to 35,000) and could reflect several factors: one could be falling overall incidence of minor civil justice problems; another could be falling recourse to the courts to settle these types of cases.
It is not possible to disaggregate the historical data on the overall number of civil cases reliably. Such disaggregation is only available for the last three years.
Chart 17 : Cases initiated in the Outer House of the Court of Session and in the Sheriff Courts
Almost all of the 97,500 civil cases initiated in 2010-11 (95%) were raised in Sheriff Courts. Chart 18 shows the breakdown of civil cases initiated in Sheriff Courts, by type of case. Debt is the most common type, making up almost half of the cases initiated in the Sheriff Courts in 2010-11. The number of debt cases initiated in the Sheriff Courts has fallen over the last few years, from 65,800 in 2008-09 to 45,400 in 2010-11.
Chart 18 indicates that repossessions (19,400 - 21%), divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership (10,900 - 12%) and personal injury (6,200 - 7%) are the next most common types of cases initiated in the Sheriff Court. In contrast, almost 4 out of 5 cases initiated in the Court of Session were for personal injury: 2,940 in 2010-11.
In 2010-11 there were over 4,200 ordinary cause repossession cases initiated involving a mortgage or loan secured on a property. This is 49% fewer than in 2009-10, mainly due to legislative changes and court rulings which led to (i) repossessions being raised as summary applications instead of under ordinary cause procedure; and (ii) as of 24 November 2010, all repossession cases being withdrawn from the courts and resubmitted as summary applications following a 2 month waiting period. Therefore, the 2009-10 figure of 8,300 cases initiated is likely to be a more appropriate indicator of the actual level of mortgage-related repossessions. This is equivalent to 3.5 cases per 1,000 households.[†]
Chart 18: Cases initiated in the Sheriff Courts, by type, 2010-11
Repossession cases not related to mortgages or loans initiated fell by 29% between 2008-09 and 2010-11 to 14,200 (6.1 per 1,000 households), partly due to a change in the way rent arrears are managed across some councils.
The closest equivalent figures for England and Wales are for 2010, with 75,400 mortgage-related and 135,000 non-mortgage repossession cases being initiated during the year. This is equivalent to 3.6 mortgage-related and 5.9 non-mortgage cases per 1,000 households.
Over 9,100 personal injury cases were registered in the Sheriff Courts and the Court of Session in 2010-11, 7% fewer than the previous year. The number of cases disposed increased by 21% to 7,500. Over half of the cases initiated in the Court of Session were for personal injury. It is not possible to make a direct comparison between Scotland and England/Wales for debt and personal injury cases as equivalent data for England and Wales are not available.
The number of divorces granted in Scotland in 2010 was 10,000, 3% less than in 2009, and the lowest number since the early 1980s. There were 119,600 divorces in England and Wales in 2010, 5% more than in 2009, but still lower than the 2003 figure of 153,100. The most recent data available on divorce rates is for 2009. The divorce rate in Scotland was 10.0 divorcing people per 1,000 married population, compared to the equivalent rate of 10.5 in England and Wales.
Many civil justice problems that require adjudication cannot be resolved by court action and are instead dealt with through the tribunal system rather than the courts. This process is often included in the wider definition of “administrative justice”. A number of tribunals sit in Scotland - some devolved, others reserved to Westminster - covering a wide range of matters including employment, education, children's hearings, mental health, social security and tax.
There are three different groups of tribunals:
- Tribunals that deal with devolved issues and have a specific Scottish jurisdiction and structures (such as the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland);
- Tribunals that deal with reserved issues, but have a specific Scottish jurisdiction and structures (such as the tribunal that deals with War Pensions);
- Tribunals that deal with reserved issues and have GB-wide jurisdiction and structures (such as the Social Entitlement Chamber of the First-tier tribunal which deals with appeals relating to Social Security and Child Support).
At a UK level, tribunals received around 830,000 cases and disposed of around 715,000 cases in 2010-11. Data for previous years and the main tribunals are given in the chart below. The number of cases being processed has been increasing over the last few years, mainly due to the increase in cases going through the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal.
The figures above include Scottish cases with, for example, around 53,000 cases received and 46,000 disposed of in 2010-11 by the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal relating to Scotland. Separate Scottish figures are not available for the other two tribunals in the chart. As an example of a devolved Scottish tribunal, the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland received 3,700 cases in 2010-11 and disposed of 3,600.
Valuation Appeal Committees deal with large numbers of cases, but data for these is incomplete - over 50,000 cases were registered with the local committees that were able to provide data.
Chart 19: Number of cases initiated and disposed by UK tribunals, 2008-09 to 2010-11
The tribunal system in Scotland has been subject to review over recent years and the Scottish Government is now pursuing a programme of tribunal reform.
Following the 2008 Options for the Future and Supervision of Tribunals in Scotland report  the Scottish Government decided to create a Scottish Tribunals Service to begin to address the issues raised in the report through administrative integration. The Scottish Tribunals Service (STS) was launched on 1 December 2010.
The Scottish Tribunals Service (STS) currently provides administrative support for the following tribunals (from December 2010 unless otherwise stated):
- The Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland (from February 2011)
- The Lands Tribunal for Scotland
- The Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland
- The Pension Appeal Tribunals Scotland
- The Scottish Charity Appeal Panel
- The Private Rented Housing Panel (from April 2011)
Current reform plans are to bring Scottish tribunals together into a unified judicial structure under the leadership of the Lord President.
The number of cases processed by the tribunals service and the issues that the tribunals are responsible for demonstrate the importance of the tribunals system, particularly for those who are most vulnerable and in need of help.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
The recent decline in court business may be partly related to the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) techniques by which disputes can be resolved without recourse to the courts. ADR includes adjudication, conciliation, arbitration, mediation, and use of ombudsmen - in Scotland the most commonly used are mediation and arbitration, with adjudication often used by the construction industry.
The extent and relevance of the evidence base around ADR is currently unclear; the Scottish Government will be undertaking a review of evidence as part of the Making Justice Work Programme. In terms of official statistics, the confidentiality of arbitration and mediation makes data gathering problematic.
A review of some limited evidence on mediation (one form of ADR) in Scotland, based on small studies in specific areas, found generally positive data on the utility of mediation as a form of dispute resolution in Scotland. With the above limitations in mind, the review found that settlement rates appear to be high, and satisfaction rates were also high. It found little hard evidence on party expenses and time savings compared to the court route, but there are some suggestions that mediation costs can be lower for service users.
2.4 Community Safety
Community safety is a broad notion, encompassing many dimensions. It is influenced by the environment - natural, built and social - in which we live our lives but also by our actions and behaviours. Factors affecting community safety include:
- physical infrastructure
- alcohol and smoking habits/norms
- technology (e.g. smoke alarms)
- legislation and regulation (e.g. seatbelts; drink driving limit; smoking ban)
- social norms - e.g. pro-social behaviours that are intended to help other people, influenced by education/early years
Perceptions of community safety are also important. People need not only to be safe but also to feel safe in order to live life to the full. Perceptions of safety are influenced by a range of factors, including information about underlying issues (such as the risk of crime) obtained from various sources ranging from personal experience and local conversations to newspapers, broadcast media and the internet.
2.4.1 Aspects of Community Safety
In many quantifiable respects, Scotland is becoming a safer place to live, as evidenced by a falling risk of crime measured by the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS). However, for many types of crime, the perceived risk is higher than the actual average risk across the population.
Risk of Crime
In addition to estimating the number of crimes, the SCJS measures the percentage of households or adults who were victims of crime in the 12 months before interview. This identifies the overall risk of being a victim of crime and is known as the crime victimisation rate or prevalence. It should be noted that this represents average risk. Risks in particular locations and for particular individuals will be higher or lower than the average (a theme developed in the Geography of Justice chapter and in the Equalities Assessment).
The SCJS estimates that around one in six (17.8%) adults aged 16 or over was the victim of at least one crime as measured by the SCJS in 2010-11. The equivalent rate for crime victimisation in England and Wales was 21.5%.
Chart 20 presents the change in overall victimisation rates since 1992. The risk of being a victim of a crime has fallen from 20.4% in 2008-09 to 17.8% in 2010-11. Within the overall victimisation rate, different types of crime have different risks associated with them. There was a 16% risk to an adult of being a victim of property crime, compared to a 3% risk of being a victim of violent crime, based on results from the 2010-11 SCJS.
The risk of being a victim of any crime is similar for males and females, with 18% of males having been a victim of at least one crime compared to 17% of females. The risk of being a victim of crime decreases with increasing age: 26% of 16-24 year olds were at risk of being a victim of crime compared with 9% of those aged 60 or older. The equivalent figures for England and Wales in the British Crime Survey show a similar pattern.
Chart 20: The proportion of Scottish Crime and Justice Survey respondents who were a victim of one or more crimes as measured by the survey, 1992 to 2010-11
Perceptions of Crime
The SCJS is used specifically to monitor one of the national indicators in Scotland Performs: Increase positive public perception of the general crime rate in the local area. In 2010-11, it was estimated that 74% of adults perceived the crime rate in their local area to have stayed the same or reduced in the past two years, an improvement from 65% in 2006, the baseline for the national indicator, as shown in Chart 21.
The equivalent figures from the British Crime Survey give the percentage of people who think that there is 'a little' or 'a lot' more crime than two years ago, so look at this issue from the other side. This percentage has fallen in recent years, from 41% in 2006-07 to 28% in 2010-11, with the most recent value being roughly equivalent to the Scottish figure above.
The question ‘how safe do you feel walking alone in your local area after dark’ is commonly used to measure public anxiety about crime. Across Scotland, the majority of adults (68%) said that they felt safe while 31% of adults said they felt unsafe walking alone in their local area after dark. Females were more likely than males to report feeling unsafe: 44% of females compared with 17% males. (It is noteworthy that the Scottish Household Survey asks a similar question but in a different context and reports significantly lower figures.)
Chart 21: Proportion of Scottish Crime Survey respondents who think crime in the local area has stayed the same or reduced in the past 2 years, 2000 to 2010-11
In addition to being asked for their perceptions of how common crimes were, respondents were also asked how worried they were that specific crimes would happen to them. For many types of crime, the perceived risk was two or three times higher than the actual average risk across the population. For example, 11% of adults thought it was likely that their vehicle would be damaged by vandals in the next 12 months, whereas the actual risk of their vehicle being damaged in this way was 4%.
For several crimes the difference between perceived and actual risk was very large. For example, on average:
- Adults were 25 times more likely to think that they were likely to be mugged or robbed in the street than they actually were (5% perception compared with the actual risk of robbery of 0.2%);
- 20 times as many adults thought they were likely to have a motor vehicle stolen than were actually likely to experience this (4% perception compared with the actual risk of theft of a motor vehicle of 0.2%);
Establishing precisely how many people misuse illegal drugs in Scotland is not possible given the illicit nature of the activity. However, results from the 2010-11 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey Drug Use Report indicate that drug use remains an activity carried out by a minority of the population and has become less common since 2006. Among those who use drugs, only a minority report taking drugs very frequently. The number of adults in Scotland who were aged between 16 and 59 who reported taking drugs in the last year fell from 12.6% in 2006 to 9.1% in 2010-11.
Findings from SALSUS 2010 (Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey) show that the percentage of 13 and 15 year olds who report that they have used drugs at some point in their lives decreased between 2008 and 2010. Further decreases in drug use in the last month were also observed among 15 year old girls (11% in 2008; 9% in 2010) and 13 year old girls (3% in 2008, 2% in 2010).
In 2011, 584 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland, which was 99 more than in 2010. This was the highest number recorded since 1996. Over the last ten years, the long-term trend has been upwards and the number of drug-related deaths has risen in six of the past ten years. This result is thought to reflect an ageing cohort of problem drug users. Males accounted for 73% (429) of the drug-related deaths in 2011 and 68% (396) of drug-related deaths were amongst those aged between 25 and 44 years.
Problem drug use affects not only the individual but also their families and communities around them. The Road to Recovery estimates that between 40,000 and 60,000 children may be affected by their parents’ problem drug use in Scotland (and of these, it is estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 children are living with a parent who has drug use problems). This evidence underlines the need for a continued focus on tackling drug use in Scotland, for the individuals themselves, for their families, and to improve community safety and cut crime.
For those whose drug or alcohol use is a problem, access to specialist treatment services is getting quicker. Data from ISD Scotland’s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Waiting Times Database (introduced from 1 April 2011) shows that 88% of clients who started their first treatment for drug or alcohol use between January and March 2012 had waited 3 weeks or less since their referral. The national HEAT target, which states that, by March 2013, 90% of clients will wait no longer than 3 weeks for drug or alcohol treatment that supports their recovery, is on track to be achieved.
Estimates of the prevalence of problem drug use in 2009-10 amongst the population aged 15-64 in Scotland are almost double those estimated for England (Scotland opiate, including prescribed and illicit methadone, and/or illicit benzodiazepine use, 1.71% of population aged 15-64; England opiate and/or crack cocaine use, 0.89% of population aged 15-64).
Alcohol consumption in the UK has doubled since the 1950s. Alcohol sales in Scotland have risen by 11% between 1994 and 2010, and were 20% higher per capita in 2010 than in England and Wales. Alcohol is cited directly as a factor in 63% of violent crimes - and this is thought likely to be an underestimate.
The alcohol and drug status was known for 97 (70%) of the 138 persons accused of homicide in 2010-11. Of these 97 accused, 79% were reported to have been drunk and/or on drugs at the time the homicide was committed (53% were drunk, 7% were on drugs and 20% were both drunk and on drugs). Only 21% of accused persons were reported not to have been under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.
The Scottish Health Survey 2010 found that 43% of adults drink more than the sensible drinking guidelines although it is worth noting that surveys are known to significantly underestimate consumption levels, so caution is required. Around half of adults in each of the age groups between 16 and 54 drink outwith these guidelines. Sales data are considered a better measure of population consumption. On this measure, weekly alcohol sales equated to 21.6 units per adult in 2011 (around double the survey estimate). Estimates suggest that between 36,000 and 51,000 children are living with parents (or guardians) whose alcohol use is potentially problematic.
Fire and Rescue Services (FRSs) have made a significant contribution to the safety of our communities over the last 10 years. The number of fires and fire deaths recorded are the second lowest in this ten year period.
Fire casualties have been decreasing over the last ten years. In 2010-11 the provisional figures were 47 fire deaths and 1,294 injuries. There were 9.0 fire deaths per million population and 247.8 fire injuries per million population. However, comparative rates for England and Wales in 2010-11 are lower, at 6.1 fire deaths and 6.7 injuries per million population respectively, and this has been the case for much of the last decade. Analysis predicting the Scottish rates of fire per capita based on the population characteristics found that the higher rates of fire in Scotland were in line with the expected number, although they exceeded the rates in England and Wales. This suggests that the higher fire rate in Scotland is related to social and demographic factors.
Road Traffic Collisions
The number of collisions and fatalities on Scotland's roads have been on a downward trend for a number of years, as shown in the table below.
Table 1: Average number of road traffic collisions in Scotland, 1971-75 to 2006-10
| ||All Accidents ||Fatal/Serious Accidents ||Fatalities |
|1971-1975 ||21,770 ||8,430 ||834 |
|1976-1980 ||22,078 ||7,941 ||785 |
|1981-1985 ||20,477 ||7,415 ||641 |
|1986-1990 ||19,670 ||6,189 ||562 |
|1991-1995 ||17,400 ||4,589 ||425 |
|1996-2000 ||15,957 ||3,548 ||351 |
|2001-2005 ||14,068 ||2,807 ||316 |
|2006-2010 ||11,924 ||2,286 ||258 |
There has been a small reduction in the number of accidental deaths since the early 1990s, falling from between 1,300 and 1,400 between 1994 and 2004, to between 1,250 and 1,350 from 2005 on. Falls are the cause of around half of accidental deaths, and affect mostly those aged 75 and over. A fifth of accidental deaths (233 in 2010) are the result of transport accidents.
Chart 22: Number of accidental deaths recorded, 1991 to 2010
Hate crime and sectarianism
Acts of hate crime motivated by hostility or prejudice towards the victim's personal characteristics (e.g. race, disability) are not new. However, their being no longer considered private or socially acceptable, but criminal, is a more recent and ongoing development. As a result, it is difficult to assess the true prevalence of hate crime and even more difficult to determine trends over time. The proportion of incidents reported to the police is estimated to be low but increasing. This is likely due to victims’ increasing belief that the police and judiciary will take the matter seriously, which is partly the result of recent legislation, with four related Acts passed in Scotland since 1998.
There is a range of data on hate crime, including the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), police recorded incidents and data on offence aggravations (which are codes added to offences that highlight particular circumstances relating to the specific incident as opposed to the actual charge, for example, aggravations can be ‘domestic’ or ‘racial’).
In Scotland, the numbers of recorded racist incidents, crimes and charges have all been slowly but continuously decreasing since 2007-08. In 2009-10, the total number of incidents recorded by the police in Scotland was 4,945, 4% lower than in 2008-09. Where ethnic origin was known, 48% of the victims were of Asian origin, with the majority of these being Pakistani, which is the largest ethnic minority in Scotland based on the 2001 Census figures. When information about the perpetrator was available, 96% of perpetrators were of white origin, 47% were aged 20 and under, and 23% were under 16.
Chart 23: Number of racist incidents recorded by the police in Scotland, 2004-05 to 2009-10
In total 4,518 charges of race crime were reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in 2011-12, 8% more than in 2010-11. The number of charges reported in the earlier period from 2006-07 to 2009-10 had been consistent at around 4,350 a year. For crime based on disability/sexual orientation/transgender identity, in the second full year of implementation of the new Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009 legislation, 652 charges were reported with an aggravation of sexual orientation, 68 with an aggravation of disability, and 16 with an aggravation of transgender identity.
There were 897 charges with a religious aggravation reported to COPFS in 2011-12, 29% more than in 2009-10, and the highest number since the relevant legislation came into force. This large increase is likely to be partly due to increased awareness, reporting and recording of these crimes, following several incidents which received significant media attention during 2011-12. Over the previous five years the overall total number of these charges has been relatively stable, fluctuating between 600 and 700 charges reported each year. Ninety-four percent of religious aggravations reported to COPFS refer to incidents where Protestantism and Roman Catholicism were targeted through the behaviour which may suggest sectarian motivations for this offending.
Sectarianism in Scotland has a unique profile of hatred and/or discrimination arising from perceived differences based on religion or ethnic identity. Further research and evidence is required to understand this profile of sectarianism including its scale and nature, its causes, its connected social harms and the interventions which are needed to address it.
In relation to hate crimes more generally, the data on court proceedings in Table 2 show the number of people convicted who had a hate crime offence aggravation attached to their charge, and can be used to provide an indication of the relative frequency of these aggravation types. The data on three new aggravation types in 2010-11 follow the introduction of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009 in March 2010.
Table 2: People with a charge proved with an offence aggravator recorded, 2004-05 to 2010-11
|Aggravator ||2004-05 ||2005-06 ||2006-07 ||2007-08 ||2008-09 ||2009-10 ||2010-11 |
|Racial ||660 ||597 ||605 ||674 ||583 ||563 ||613 |
|Religious ||153 ||275 ||276 ||260 ||290 ||235 ||274 |
|Sexual orientation ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||56 |
|Disability ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||5 |
|Transgender ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||3 |
The comparison of hate crime statistics between Scotland and other parts of the UK is complicated by differences in laws, recording and reporting practices. For the same reason, international comparisons are even more difficult. With Finland and Sweden, the UK is one of only three EU countries recording racist crime “comprehensively” according the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. The recording of other strands of hate crime, such as religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, is even less developed.
For the past four years, the rate of racist incidents recorded by the police per 10,000 population in Scotland has been comparable to that in England and Wales, and about twice that in Northern Ireland. However, when interpreting these figures, it is important to keep in mind that the ethnic composition of the UK population is far from uniform. According to the 2001 Census, 90.9% of the population of England and Wales was white, while this figure was 98.0% for Scotland, and 99.2% for Northern Ireland.
Table 3: Rates of racist incidents recorded by the police per 10,000 population in Scotland, England and Wales, and Northern Ireland, 2007-08 to 2010-11
| ||Scotland ||E&W ||NI |
|2007-08 ||10.4 ||10.8 ||5.5 |
|2008-09 ||9.7 ||10.2 ||5.6 |
|2009-10 ||9.5 ||10.0 ||5.8 |
|2010-11 ||9.3 ||9.3 ||4.7 |
There has been a steady increase in the number of domestic abuse incidents recorded by the police in Scotland over the past decade. However, this might in part reflect an increase in reporting rates, which would itself be a positive development. In 2010-11, it was estimated that the police came to know of 17% of the most recent incidents of partner abuse experienced by victims in the last 12 months. It is also worth noting that, for the first time, the number of incidents recorded in 2009-10 decreased from the previous year (by 4%).
Chart 24: Incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police - crimes and offences, and behaviour not amounting to a crime or offence, 2000-01 to 2009-10
62% of the 51,926 incidents recorded in 2009-10 led to the recording of a crime or an offence and of these, 68% were reported to the procurator fiscal. Incidents with a female victim and a male perpetrator represented 82% of all incidents where this information was recorded. This percentage has gradually decreased from 91% in 2000-01, and likely reflects an increase in the reporting rates of male victims of domestic abuse.
Community cohesion can be measured in a number of different ways - including people's perceptions of their neighbourhoods and communities, the level of social trust between individuals, and the extent of connections in the local area. The data available on these indicators shows a mixed picture on change over time.
The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) shows that overall ratings of neighbourhoods have been consistently high over the past decade, with over nine in ten people typically saying their neighbourhood is a fairly or very good place to live. In 2011, over half (55.9%) of all adults chose the highest rating, 'very good', the highest rating since the SHS first started collecting this information in 1999. Just under 6% rated their neighbourhood as being fairly or very poor, again the best recorded.
Chart 25: Rating of neighbourhood as a place to live, by year, 1999 - 2011
Overall ratings of neighbourhoods are a useful snapshot of general perceptions but additional insights can be gained through understanding what aspects of their neighbourhoods adults particularly like and dislike.
There is some correlation between how a neighbourhood is rated and opinions on the sense of community in the area. Generally, as the rating of a neighbourhood declines (from very good down to very poor), the number of people saying they like different aspects, including the sense of community, also decreases.
Previous research on SHS data showed that the perceived prevalence of anti-social behaviour in the local area was a key factor influencing respondents' overall perception of their neighbourhood as being rated poor. Up to 2010, there had been a trend of gradual improvements in perceptions of neighbourhood problems, with 2010 representing the lowest (i.e. best) measures of problems for all categories. For example, around one in ten (11%) of adults perceive vandalism, including graffiti and damage to property, as being very or fairly common in their neighbourhood, compared to a high of 19.2% in 2002. In 2011 some of the categories saw a slight increase; for example, animal nuisance such as noise or dog fouling increased by over two percentage points to 27%.