Official Statistics - recorded crime and related topics: consultation responses - summary

This publication provides a summary of responses a discussion of next steps to the consultation on how information about different types of crime is grouped and presented within the recorded crime Official Statistics (and other statistical products).

Overview of responses

Alongside the feedback collated from the events hosted during the consultation period we received a total of 18 responses to the consultation. These included responses from 13 organisations and five individuals. A list of organisations who responded to the consultation can be found in Annex A and a copy of the responses received, for those who gave their permission, were published in June 2021[2].

The following findings are taken from both the consultation events and the written responses, the opinions expressed at the events were broadly similar to those in the written responses.

In summary, all respondents were supportive of many of the proposals within the alternative framework presented in this consultation. Users were keen to see a greater amount of disaggregation of the current framework, so that the public could have a clearer understanding of the changing nature of crime in Scotland. Users also highlighted the importance of clarity about the types of behaviour included in each crime or offence group.

Respondents were generally supportive of several proposals laid out in the consultation, such as the reclassification of common assault from an offence to a crime. However, for other areas there was a more mixed response such as reclassifying aspects of prostitution and drug crime as an offence. Some users also questioned whether it was still relevant to maintain a distinction between crimes and offences in statistical publications.

Summary of responses

The 'What respondents said' section includes a detailed summary of all responses and feedback received as part of this consultation. Some key findings are highlighted in Table 1 below:

Table 1: High Level Summary of Responses


Respondents were…

Purpose and supporting principles

  • generally happy with the supporting principles (where they offered a view)
  • supportive of increased granularity within the Recorded Crime statistics (i.e. to have more than the five current crime groups).

Non-sexual violence

  • supportive of increasing the level of granularity in this group.
  • supportive of reclassifying Common assault as a crime and also to further split this into common assault with- and without injury.
  • supportive of having a category to present cases recorded under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, although highlighted the name for such a group should be carefully considered.

Sexual crimes

  • generally supportive of using multiple groups to present statistics on sexual crime in Scotland.
  • however still keen to maintain an overall measure of sexual crime.
  • mixed views on whether the crime of 'Soliciting or loitering in a public place for the purposes of prostitution' should be reclassified as an offence.

Crimes of dishonesty

  • generally content with the current presentation of dishonest crime but with suggestions that some types of crime (i.e. fraud and theft) could be further disaggregated to be more meaningful.

Fire-raising, vandalism etc.

  • supportive of renaming this group to 'Damage and reckless conduct'.

Other crimes

  • respondents were generally not supportive of reclassifying the drug possession for personal use as an offence.

Miscellaneous offences

  • supportive of splitting the current miscellaneous offences into two groups.

Motor vehicle offences

  • supportive of renaming this group to 'Road traffic offences'.

Cyber-crime in Scotland

  • supportive of increasing the evidence base around the impact of cyber-technologies on crime trends and in particular the inclusion of a dedicated chapter in the National Statistics.

Other suggested approaches

  • some questioned maintaining the split between recorded crimes and recorded offences, querying whether it was still of relevance today.

Part One: Purpose and supporting principles


Part One of the consultation outlined the purpose and supporting principles on how police recorded crimes and offences should be grouped and presented in the National Statistics. The aim of these is to give the Crime Board a formal set of criteria on which to base the presentation of crime statistics and judge any changes in approach both as part of this consultation, and in the future.

Purpose and supporting principles

Where they offered a view, respondents were by and large happy with the purpose and principles laid out in the consultation. Respondents felt that several issues were important to them such as maintaining a granular and consistent approach, where comparisons could be made across time. The importance of also being able to compare crime statistics across a range of datasets (including the Crime and Justice Survey and Criminal Proceedings) was also highlighted. Another area user discussed was the importance of open access data, with more data being made available to allow them to better use and reuse it.

Some of the responses received queried the relevance of the distinction between crimes and offences. These respondents questioned whether this separation was still of relevance today, commenting that it could be appear to be arbitrary. It was noted that historically this was simpler with a common law / statutory offences split, but that this may now be outdated.

Furthermore, this led to the suggestion that this distinction may not be helpful when interpreting the figures, as it may not be well understood by the public. It was also highlighted that victims might feel that their experience is being downgraded through the statistical categorisation of some cases as offences rather than crimes – albeit the publications make clear this has no impact on how police investigate reports of criminal activity.

Part Two: An alternative way to present recorded crime statistics


Part two of the consultation proposed an alternative way through which the recorded crime statistics could be presented, using a refreshed set of groups. User views were invited on the differences between the current grouping structure and the alternative proposal.

Crimes of non-sexual violence

Having more groups for the area of non-sexual violence:

Most respondents saw the benefits of moving towards using multiple groups to present statistics on non-sexual violence in Scotland. Those in favour of this felt more groups would make it easier to identify trends, and would provide a more detailed understanding of crime patterns.

However, respondents also highlighted the value of having one measure of 'non-sexual violence', suggesting one group with more sub-categories as an alternative to the suggested approach.

Having a group for 'Homicide, attempted murder & serious assault':

Generally, most respondents considered this to be a good suggestion, citing that these crimes do group together meaningfully and it would mean they are not lost within more voluminous albeit relatively less severe crimes. One respondent also highlighted that they were keen to see greater visibility for statistics relating to 'death by driving offences'.

Changes to the classification of common assault:

There was general agreement that reclassifying the offence of common assault as a crime, and therefore seeing it included within the totals for recorded crime in Scotland, would increase the value of the statistics. Reasons for this support included (i) that it better fits with the public's understanding of violence and (ii) would present a more realistic picture of recorded violence in Scotland. Users also emphasised the importance of ensuring that any change could be back-revised, so that a consistent time-series was available. Finally, should such a change be made, they highlighted the important of explaining the impact of this to users within the recorded crime statistics.

Respondents were also supportive of the move towards further separating common assault into with and without-injury as it would add further information for this crime group. However, there was concern about the terms 'with injury' and 'without injury'. It was noted that the label 'without injury' might be viewed as being a less severe form of common assault, overlooking the impact of psychological injuries which could still cause significant harm.

In light of the above, some respondents highlighted that this distinction may be hard for officers to implement and could result in further follow up work for officers to determine the extent of injury. Respondents welcomed the suggestion that any change to the recording of common assault be tested prior to implementation to address these concerns.

There was also a suggestion to include new codes to specifically identify common and serious assaults to police officers and staff.

Creating a separate group for Robbery:

There was broad support for creating a separate group for crimes of robbery, with respondents commenting on its distinction from assault-based violence in terms of its different characteristics (i.e. the infrequency of cases that involved physical injury) and drivers over time (i.e. often an acquisitive aspect rather than the specific intention to inflict a physical injury on the victim).

Creating a group for 'domestic abuse and other cruelty':

Respondents were generally in favour of presenting more information on crimes relating to domestic abuse with one stating that:

"including a separate category of domestic abuse and other cruelty makes sense given recent changes in the law (and draws attention to the issue of domestic violence more generally)".

The biggest concern from respondents was that by creating a group called 'domestic abuse' it could be misleading for users, implying that it will capture all crimes of domestic abuse – rather than just those recorded under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. Therefore any naming convention for this group should make it clear that it will only include offences under this specific legislation.

Generally, respondents were supportive of the suggestion to include stalking offences alongside the new domestic abuse offences. Reasons for this included that, while not all stalking cases will be domestic in nature, it is expected that stalking offences are likely to reduce as some actions may be recorded under the new domestic abuse offence. Respondents also suggested that any name of the new group make reference to the inclusion of stalking. In contrast to these points, one user was keen to see stalking included within a sub-category of its own rather than within a heading of 'Other cruelty'.

Classification of crimes of Female genital mutilation (FGM):

A couple of respondents specifically noted the proposal to include crimes of FGM as part of a 'Homicide, attempted murder and serious assault' group rather than within a broader 'Other violence' group. One respondent noted that perhaps this would better sit within a 'Domestic abuse and other cruelty' type group, stating that:

'While FGM is a form of serious physical violence, it would typically differ from incidents of homicide, attempted murder and serious assault in terms of the modus operandi and the motivation'.

Sexual crimes

Presentation of sexual crimes as two groups:

Respondents were generally supportive of using multiple groups to present statistics on sexual crime in Scotland and in particular were supportive of a with and without-physical contact distinction. One user stated that this:

"would enable data users to determine how the nature and practice of sexually motivated behaviours are changing over time, especially in line with increasing levels of digitally enabled crime".

Respondents also stated that this would help to separate out, and raise the profile of, some crime types which had been somewhat obscured within the current 'Other sexual crimes' group. Despite the interest in increased granularity within this group, respondents also noted that it would still be useful to retain a total for all sexual crimes – particularly for media reporting.

Similar to concerns voiced about how common assault may be divided for statistical purposes, some respondents felt a contact based distinction for sexual crimes could imply that those crimes that don't involve physical contact, are considered less serious than those which do.

Classification of some prostitution crimes:

The question whether to reclassify the crime of 'Soliciting or loitering in a public place for the purposes of prostitution' as an offence received a range of views. Some users viewed this a positive step given the consideration that those who sell sex are as much victims themselves and that the public may not view this as aligned with other sexual crimes. While others considered that these should remain as sexual crimes as it is better to classify crimes on similarities and motivations, rather than how seriously they are dealt with by authorities.

Crimes of dishonesty

Users responded that the existing approach to presenting crimes of dishonesty was appropriate and works well. Although some felt like there might be a better name for this group, suggesting 'Acquisitive crime' as an alternative. There was some suggestion that certain groups which are currently very large and describe a wide range of criminal behaviours could be further disaggregated in order to be more meaningful. Specific examples that were cited include housebreaking (separating out attempted from successful incidents, or by value of the theft) and fraud (separating intellectual property from other forms of white-collar crimes).

Fire-raising, vandalism etc.

There was considerable support of renaming this group to 'Damage and reckless conduct'. Respondents stated that this would provide a more realistic picture of what the group includes and therefore would be more meaningful to the wider public.

There was discussion about adding more granularity to this group, in particular for the crime of vandalism. For example, to provide a similar breakdown to that in the SCJS i.e. vandalism against motor vehicles, household, or other property.

Other crimes

Renaming to Crimes against society:

Several respondents were supportive of this proposal as they felt the current name of 'Other crimes' was confusing, and that the new name could provide more meaningful information to the public. However, others felt that this suggested name may not mean more than the existing one, as the group is so diverse. These respondents instead preferred the use of sub-categories to provide more information.

Classification of drug possession for personal use:

There was a strong preference from users to keep drug possession for personal use classified as a crime in the statistics, rather than reclassify it as an offence. While some respondents did acknowledge the move as supporting a public health approach to drug use, many respondents feared it:

"would give members of the public the wrong impression as to how seriously Scottish Government and Police Scotland see drug crime".

It was also noted that there was benefit to keeping similar types of criminal behaviour together, and therefore that all drug crimes (possession and supply) should remain in the same group.

Other views:

Where respondents had other views on the presentation of these statistics they suggested that it would be better to have separate groups for crimes of weapon possession and drug crimes. There was also an interest in splitting drug crimes into possession, importation, and supply.

Miscellaneous offences

Respondents were supportive of splitting the current miscellaneous offences into two groups. They felt this would allow for better comparisons and more detailed understanding of trends between offence types. In addition, one suggestion was that the second group, should be called 'Anti-social behaviour' as it better describes the criminal activity included in the group.

Motor vehicle offences

When asked whether the current group of Motor vehicle offences should be renamed to 'Road traffic offences' most respondents considered this to be a good suggestion with one user stating that it:

"is a logical, fair progression to aid accurate statistics for Governments' future policy in improving road safety and to inform road safety groups, media and public interest".

Part Three: Cyber-crime in Scotland and other suggested approaches


Part Three of the consultation provided users an opportunity to offer any other views on the approach used to present these statistics. This section also discussed the recording of crimes with a cyber-element and how we might present information on this topic in the future.

Cyber-crime in Scotland

There was clear interest from all respondents in having more information about cyber-crimes. Specifically, there was reference to the fact that as cyber-technologies are being increasingly used by more people to commit crimes it would be useful to know to what extent different crime groups are affected by this change in criminal behaviour. However, there was a lack of consensus about if this information would be best presented in its own stand-alone chapter or discussed as part of pre-existing chapters.

Other suggested approaches

Respondents also highlighted a number of areas they considered important for future statistical releases which are listed below:

  • It would be helpful for categories and sub-categories to be split in supporting tables to Local Authority areas.
  • A table detailing where aggravators are present for each category.
  • Consideration should be given to apply the outcome approach to the clear-up rate statistics. This approach would provide users with greater clarity as to how crimes are dealt with.
  • There was also a view that any changes should not be swayed by sentencing responses from the judicial system.



Back to top