Major study into repeat victims of violence

Violent crime much lower than a decade ago, despite more reports last year.

Scots who experience repeat incidents of violence will be the focus of an extensive 16-month research project.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed the study will engage directly with victims of violent crime, particularly in Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities, and those facing challenges from homelessness, substance misuse or previous convictions.

It comes as official figures showed a 10% rise in reports of non-sexual violent crime in 2018-19, while the number remains at a lower level than any time between 1980 and 2011-12.

Recorded crime increased overall by 1%, from 244,504 in 2017-18 to 246,480, with the biggest contributor being a 10% rise in drug possession crimes – up by 2,672.

The police clear up rate rose to 51%, one of the highest levels since comparable records began in 1976.

Mr Yousaf said:

“While there is less crime and fewer victims than a decade ago, the impact on victims, particularly of sexual or violent crimes, is often devastating. That is why we are strengthening how Scotland’s justice system and other public services support victims, while investing in both law enforcement and crime prevention projects.

“We want victims to have the confidence to report crimes to the police, We know that many of the sexual crimes recorded in this year’s figures occurred many years in the past.  We are investing record levels of funding to support victims through a range of front line specialist services.

“Our £20 million investment in violence prevention since 2007 has helped reduce violent crime to levels now 43% lower than in 2006-07, but any rise requires us to re-double-efforts to secure the gains made over the last decade.  As well as continued investment in policing, in the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit and projects such as No Knives, Better Lives, Mentors in Violence Prevention and Navigators, I have commissioned a major study into repeat violent victimisation. While fewer than 1 in every 100 adults are victims of repeated incidents of violence, these accounted for around three-fifths of violent crime.

“This research will help police, together with local and national government to better understand the nature of repeat violence – including the role of substance misuse - and ensure we focus our efforts on those most affected by violence wherever it persists.”

The National Statistics bulletin, Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2018-19, also revealed that:

  • sexual crimes recorded by police rose 8% to 13,547, continuing long-term increases in the reporting of offences, both historical and recent, and including those committed online
  • crimes of dishonesty were at the third lowest-level since 1971, with house-breaking at a record low, while shoplifting was up 7% on the previous year
  • analysis of fraud cases found 30% involved bank cards, while victims of ‘phishing’ scams – where perpetrators obtain sensitive information by falsely claiming to be from a reputable organisation, and which accounted for 10% of all fraud last year – tended to be older, on average 60 years old
  • vandalism has almost halved in ten years, with fewer reported cases than any year since 1976 – alongside a 42% fall in fire-raising over the last decade

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, Police Scotland, said:

“Police Scotland cleared up an additional 89 crimes per week on average compared to the year before and increased detection rates are to be welcomed.

“We have seen a large increase in reports of rape and sexual offences since the formation of Police Scotland. It is crucial those affected by these crimes feel confident about coming forward and reform of policing has transformed how we approach these cases.

"While violence and carrying weapons remains at historically low levels, it is entirely unacceptable and tackling it is a key priority. Initiatives include local and national campaigns presented at schools such as No Knives Better Lives and the One Punch campaign.” 

A separate report released to coincide with the new recorded crime figures, ‘Non-sexual violence in Scotland’, outlines that the overall fall in violence over the past decade has been driven by a reduction in younger men’s involvement. It also highlights that violent crime remains commonly associated with alcohol, drug use, more deprived areas and repeat victimisation.


A Statistical news release about the publication Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2018-19 is available online.

The Scottish Government’s major 16-month study to better understand the problem of repeat violent victimisation (RVV) in Scotland will begin shortly. The Scottish Crime & Justice Survey of around 5,500 of adults – capturing incidents whether or not reported to police – shows that the proportion of people experiencing crime has fallen from around 1-in-5 in 2008-09 (20.4%) to around 1-in-8 in 2017-18 (12.5%), while the proportion experiencing violent crime was 2.3% down from 4.1% a decade ago.  Fewer than 1 in every 100 adults in Scotland were victims of repeated incidents of violence in 2017-18, but their experiences accounted for around three-fifths of violent crime that year.

Over the last ten years, the Scottish Government has invested £20 million in violence prevention including:

  • The Scottish Violence Reduction Unit - a national centre of expertise on violence. Supported by the Scottish Government, the SVRU has adopted a public health approach, treating violence as an infection which can be prevented and cured. The SVRU aims to reduce violent crime and behaviour by working with partner agencies to achieve long-term societal and attitudinal change, and, by focusing on enforcement, to contain and manage individuals who carry weapons or who are involved in violent behaviour. 
  • Medics Against Violence - set up a decade ago by three surgeons who dealt every day with the devastating consequences of violence.  MAV deliver training to professionals and students to spot the signs of domestic abuse and refer people onto support services. MAV also works to prevent violence through education and deliver a secondary school programme, where MAV volunteers, who are all NHS professionals, work with local schools, going into classrooms and speaking directly to young people about how to avoid violent situations and stay safe.
  • Mentors in Violence Prevention Programme - developed by the SVRU and is now led by Education Scotland, to promote positive relationships through health and wellbeing for young people in schools across Scotland. MVP Scotland is a bystander programme which aims to empower young people to safely challenge and speak out against gender based violence, including bullying, abusive and violent behaviour, as well as the negative attitudes and assumptions which underpin this behaviour.
  • No Knives Better Lives - a youth engagement programme which aims to target young people aged 11-18 years, on the cusp of picking up a knife, to reduce the incidence of violence and knife carrying amongst young people.  The programme raises awareness of the potentially devastating risks and consequences associated with carrying a knife and encourages young people to make positive life choices.
  • Navigators Programme - aims to interrupt violence by identifying and supporting people within the Emergency Department (ED) or ward at the point and time of need.  The programme started at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in December 2015 and was rolled out further to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 2017 and into Queen Elizabeth hospital in Glasgow and Cross House Hospital in the later part of 2018. 
  • Police Scotland Youth Volunteers - seeks to deepen police engagement with young people, breaking down barriers with traditionally difficult to engage communities and promote positive role models. PSYV provides young people aged 13-18 with the opportunity to gain confidence and develop leadership skills by working with Police Scotland and volunteering in their local community. 

Further information from Police Scotland suggests that 25% of sexual crimes in 2018-19 were historical, including 41% of crimes of rape & attempted rape. Historical, or non-recent, crimes are crimes which are reported more than one year after they occurred.

The Scottish Government is investing £18 million this year to improve support, advice and information for victims. This month, the Scottish Government laid regulations to introduce a Victim Surcharge Fund and launched a consultation on expanding the use of victim statements. As set out in Programme for Government, the Scottish Government will continue to deliver changes recommended by the Victims Taskforce and make further improvements to forensic services for victims of sexual offences.


Contact: Richard Clarke - 0131 244 3069 / 07722238248


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