An alternative way to present recorded crime statistics
23. The Crime Board has developed an alternative way to present the recorded crime statistics, based on a refreshed set of groups. A discussion of this proposal is provided below, including the main differences to our existing approach.
24. The inclusion of an alternative approach is to help illustrate for users a range of possible changes to how crime statistics are presented. None of the proposals in the alternative approach should be seen as having been endorsed by the Crime Board, with the outcome of this consultation determining which changes might be made.
Background to alternative approach
25. Annex C presents an alternative way to present the recorded crime statistics, and how this would have looked over the past 10 years (2008-09 to 2017-18).
26. This alternative proposes a greater number of groups, replacing the existing seven group structure (with five for crimes and two for offences) with a twelve group structure (nine for crimes and three for offences). Annex D provides a full list of crime and offence types within each of these groups.
27. The Purpose and Supporting principles outlined in Part One of the consultation have informed the design of this alternative approach. Key themes included;
- Increasing the number of crime and offence groups to allow a more detailed understanding of trends over time in different types of criminal behaviour in Scotland (and as part of this to move away from the less-detailed descriptors used for some sub-categories of crime, like 'Other Sexual Crimes').
- Protecting the statistical user's ability to undertake time series analysis using the recorded crime National Statistics (when compared to the existing approach).
- Updating the crime and offence groups to better reflect the impact of new legislation – including the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018.
- Rearranging the division of incidents between crime and offence groups – to align them more fully with the principles outlined in Part One of this consultation (namely that more serious criminal acts, which tend to be victim or witness reported should be categorised as crimes - whilst less serious acts, that can be operationally affected should be categorised as offences).
For information Annex E provides the sentencing profile for all crime and offence categories (including the proportion leading to custodial or communities based sentences, monetary fines and other outcomes). The biggest impact of this is the proposal that common assault could be included in a crime group (it is currently categorised as an offence), whilst users are also asked whether drug possession (for personal use) should be moved in the opposite direction into an offence-based group.
28. The alternative approach to presenting the recorded crime statistics would represent a significant change to the existing structure. Despite this, it would still show the same significant reduction in recorded crime in Scotland over the past ten years (down 33% between 2008-09 and 2017-18, compared to a fall of 35% with the existing approach).
29. The following sections discuss, and invite user views, on each proposed group within the alternative approach. Part Three of this consultation also provides respondents with the opportunity to feedback any other views they may have on how recorded crime statistics could be presented.
30. The existing approach for presenting crime statistics has one group to cover non-sexual crimes of violence. This includes four sub-categories; Homicide etc., Attempted murder and serious assault, Robbery and Other. The 'Other' sub-category includes a range of different crime types – the most common in 2017-18 were cruelty to & unnatural treatment of children, Threats & extortion and Abduction.
31. The non-sexual crimes of violence group accounted for 3% of all crime recorded in Scotland in 2017-18. Over the past ten years the volume of these crimes decreased by 43% (since 2008-09).
32. The alternative approach proposes using multiple groups to present statistics on the general area of non-sexual violence.
Homicide, attempted murder and serious assault
33. The first group would be 'Homicide, attempted murder and serious assault'. This would be based on the first two sub-categories of the existing non-sexual crimes of violence group and would represent the most serious acts of non-sexual violence in Scotland. Serious assaults (which would account for around 90% of this group) involve a victim sustaining injuries that lead to detention in hospital as an inpatient or specific types of injury such as fractures, internal injuries or lacerations that require stiches.
34. It is proposed that the crime of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also be included in the 'Homicide, Attempted murder and serious assault' group. FGM is currently included within the 'Other' sub-category of the existing non-sexual crimes of violence group, though no crimes of FGM were recorded by the police in 2017-18.
Common assault and other violence
35. An earlier consultation of Police Recorded Crime Statistics suggested there could be scope to improve the presentation of figures for assault – specifically the existing split between classifying serious assault as a non-sexual crime of violence and common assault as a miscellaneous offence. Common assaults are assaults that result in either no physical injuries or a less severe injury than a serious assault (for example cuts and bruises).
36. Responding to this, the Crime Board took forward research to develop our understanding of the characteristics of police recorded common assault. This research found that cases of common assault include a wide range of actions. Around half involve no or very little physical injury to the complainer, whilst the other half had some degree of physical injury (from soreness/red marks to single or multiple injuries like scratches & lacerations or bruising & swelling).
37. Having carried out this research, the Board considered whether re-classifying common assault to become a non-sexual crime of violence would add value to the recorded crime statistics. This could be reasonable on the grounds that common assaults tend to be reported by victims or witnesses (and not as a consequence of operational decisions by the police) and offenders can expect a more severe sentence than other types of criminal behaviour (like vandalism) that are included in the total figures for recorded crime (see Annex E).
38. Further to this, the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) uses a measure of people's experience of violent crime (including those not reported to the police) that includes incidents similar to common assault, potentially offering an opportunity for greater consistency between police and population based crime measures.
39. However, simply transferring common assault from being a miscellaneous offence to a non-sexual crime of violence could decrease the statistical visibility of more serious incidents (such as attempted murder and serious assault). This may be a disadvantage as the current measure of non-sexual crimes of violence has been well established with users for many years, and has helped identify a relatively larger decrease in more serious acts of violence than it could have done if common assault was also in this group.
40. As such, the alternative approach to presenting the recorded crime statistics proposes a second group to cover 'Common assault and other violence'.
41. This would be based on the sub-category of common assault (which as noted above is currently categorised as a miscellaneous offence) and some crimes from the 'Other' non-sexual crimes of violence sub-category outlined in paragraph 30 (Annex D provides a list of these crimes, with Threats & Extortion and Abduction having the greatest numbers in 2017-18).
42. Annex C demonstrates what the volume of this group would look like (with 59,043 incidents in the latest year). Almost all of this second group would be based on common assault (with the 'other violence' sub-category collectively accounting for around 1% of the group).
43. It should be noted that through this alternative approach, around 58,000 common assaults a year would switch from the total for police recorded offences to police recorded crimes. This change could be back-revised, which taken together with all other changes in the alternative approach, would result in a similar long-term decrease in recorded crime. As highlighted in paragraph 28, the alternative approach shows a 33% drop in recorded crime since 2008-09 (see Annex C) compared to a 35% drop as presented in the National Statistics (see Annex A).
44. Another change that could be enacted as part of an alternative approach would be to split common assault into common assault with physical injury and common assault without physical injury (henceforth shortened to common assault with/without injury). This would provide additional detail on the different characteristics of common assault, and would be a similar approach to that taken for England & Wales by the Office for National Statistics.
45. Should common assault be split along these lines, it is suggested that the sub-category common assault with injury could be any assault where the victim sustains minor injuries such as grazes, scratches, abrasions, bruising, swelling, reddening of the skin, superficial cuts or a 'black eye'. Common assault without injury could be any assault that leaves no visible mark or injury and does not cause more than a passing moment of pain.
46. This proposed split focuses on the physical nature of any injury. Whilst the psychological impact of assault is also likely to be of interest to users, this is more difficult to determine for recording purposes – at least in the immediate aftermath of an assault-based incident, when officers are most likely to be supporting the victim.
47. Should responses to this consultation favour splitting common assault as described above, the Crime Board will undertake further work to test and refine as appropriate the proposed definition of common assault with / without injury (to ensure new guidance issued for recording common assault supports the delivery of high value statistics for users).
48. The third group would be 'Robbery'. This would be based on the third sub-category of the existing non-sexual crimes of violence group.
49. Robbery is where someone has been physically assaulted or verbally threatened by a perpetrator in order to gain or attempt to gain property. Research into the characteristics of police recorded robbery suggested that 60% of cases in 2017-18 involved no physical injuries to the victim, with 32% sustaining a common assault level injury and 8% a serious assault level injury. The research also found that these proportions hadn't changed significantly since 2008-09.
50. Given most robbery doesn't involve any physical injuries to the victim, this alternative approach proposes keeping crimes of robbery separate to the two assault-based groups described above. Giving crimes of robbery their own group would also be similar to the approach taken in England & Wales.
Crimes of domestic abuse and other cruelty
51. The fourth group would be 'Crimes of domestic abuse and other cruelty'. This would include three sub-categories - the first of which would present statistics for crimes recorded under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. This covers abusive behaviour as a course of conduct towards a partner or ex-partner.
52. The second sub-category would be 'Cruelty to Children' – and would include cruelty to & unnatural treatment of children and other related crimes. The third sub-category would be 'Other Cruelty' – and would include stalking and some crimes from the 'Other' non-sexual crimes of violence sub-category outlined in paragraph 30 Annex D provides a list of these crimes, with slavery or forced labour having the greatest numbers in 2017-18).
53. Under this alternative approach, stalking would be recategorised from a miscellaneous offence to a crime of 'other cruelty' within the 'Crimes of domestic abuse and other cruelty' group. This could be a reasonable approach on the grounds that stalking tends to be victim-reported and offenders can expect a more severe sentence than other types of criminal behaviour.
54. However, regardless of the outcome of this consultation, it is also anticipated that cases of stalking recorded by the police could fall substantially in 2019-20 - as officers instead use the new crime of domestic abuse to record this behaviour where it occurs between partners or ex-partners. As such the statistics could benefit from a greater degree of consistency through transferring the remaining cases of stalking (i.e. where an offender isn't a victim's partner/ex-partner) into the Crimes of domestic abuse and other cruelty group.
Questions to consider
Do you have any views on using multiple groups, as outlined above, to present statistics on the general area of non-sexual violence in Scotland? (As an alternative to having one group with multiple sub-categories)
Do you have any views on creating a 'Homicide, attempted murder & serious assault' group to cover the most serious acts of non-sexual violence in Scotland?
Would the reclassification of common assault from a recorded offence to a recorded crime add value to these statistics? If so, do you have any views on the proposal to have a 'Common assault and other violence' group'?
Would you favour splitting Common assault in future years into 'Common assault with injury' and 'Common assault without injury'?
Do you favour the creation of a separate group to present statistics on crimes of robbery?
Do you have any views on the proposal to create a 'Crimes of domestic abuse and other cruelty' group? Is this the right place for the new crimes of domestic abuse and would you favour transferring cases of stalking into this group?
55. The existing approach for presenting crime statistics has one group to cover sexual crimes. This includes four sub-categories; Rape and attempted rape, Sexual assault, Crimes associated with prostitution and Other sexual crimes. The 'Other' sub-category includes several different crime types – the most common in 2017-18 were cause to view sexual activity or images, communicating indecently and possessing indecent images of children.
56. Sexual crimes accounted for 5% of all crime recorded in Scotland in 2017-18. The number of crimes in this group has grown every year since 2008-09, including a 13% increase in 2017-18. Part of the latest increase included 421 new crimes of disclosing or threatening to disclose an intimate image, following enactment of The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016.
57. In recent years the biggest contributor to growth in sexual crime has been increases in 'Other sexual crimes', which represented 42% of all recorded sexual crime by 2017-18.
58. Given the diverse nature of crimes contained within the 'Other' sub-category and the size it has now reached – an alternative approach is to split the existing sexual crimes group into two new groups. These could be 'Sexual crimes with physical contact' and 'Sexual crimes without physical contact'. This could provide the user with more detailed information on trends in sexual offending. It should be noted the group without physical contact would still include serious cases of sexual offending.
Sexual crimes with physical contact
59. The first group would be 'Sexual crimes with physical contact'. This would include three sub-categories - Rape & attempted rape, Sexual assault and Other sexual crimes with physical contact. It would be dominated by the first two sub-categories, with 93% of crimes in 2017-18 being rape & attempted rape or sexual assault.
The 'Other sexual crimes with physical contact' sub-category would include some crimes from the existing 'Other sexual crimes' sub-category (Annex D provides a list of these crimes, most of which would relate to sexual activity with older children).
Sexual crimes without physical contact
60. The second group would be 'Sexual crimes without physical contact'. This would include four sub-categories – Causing to view sexual activity or images, Communicating indecently, Indecent photos of children and Other sexual crimes without physical contact. The 'Other sexual crimes without physical contact' sub-category would include some crimes from the existing 'Other sexual crimes' sub-category (Annex D provides a list of these crimes, the most common being Sexual exposure, Public indecency and Voyeurism).
61. Annex C shows what the volume of a 'Sexual crimes without physical contact' group would look like. The aim of this group would be to give greater clarity about trends in different types of sexual crime, specifically those where the crime did not involve any direct physical contact between the victim and perpetrator. It is likely a majority of these crimes would be cyber-enabled (i.e. committed using the internet).
Crimes associated with prostitution
62. As outlined in paragraph 55, one of the existing sub-categories of sexual crime is 'Crimes associated with prostitution'. These have fallen by 82% since 2008-09, so that by 2017-18 they only accounted for 1% of total sexual crime.
63. Under the alternative approach, all 'Crimes associated with prostitution' are classified as a sub-category within the 'Sexual crimes without physical contact' group. However there may be other ways in which this information could be presented.
64. For example, users may have views as to whether crimes involving a prostitute soliciting or loitering in a public place for the purposes of prostitution should continue to be categorised within a Sexual crimes group. These represented most (57%) of all crimes associated with prostitution during the past five years. Unlike other crimes associated with prostitution such as Immoral trafficking and Brothel keeping, these crimes are not reported to the police by victims, and have a relatively less severe sentence – with offenders generally receiving an admonishment. An alternative could be to move this activity into a Miscellaneous offence group (see section on Miscellaneous Offences), whereby it would no longer contribute to the overall total for police recorded crime in Scotland. Any change of this nature would have a small impact on total recorded crime (with 65 crimes recorded in 2017-18) and could be back revised in the statistics.
65. Users may also have further views as to how crimes associated with prostitution could be presented in the National Statistics.
Questions to consider
Do you have any views on using multiple groups, as outlined above, to present statistics on Sexual crime in Scotland? (As an alternative to having one group with multiple sub-categories)
Should two groups be used to present sexual crime, do you have any views on the suggested split into 'Sexual crimes with physical contact' and 'Sexual crimes without physical contact'?
Should soliciting or loitering in a public place for the purposes of prostitution continue to be classified as a sexual crime? Do you have any other views on how police recorded crimes associated with prostitution could be presented?
Do you have any other views on how sexual crimes could be presented in the recorded crime statistics?
Crimes of Dishonesty
66. Under the existing approach, the largest group by volume is Crimes of dishonesty. This includes eight sub-categories; Housebreaking, Theft by opening a lockfast place, Theft from a motor vehicle, Theft of a motor vehicle, Shoplifting, Other theft, Fraud and Other dishonesty.
67. Crimes of dishonesty accounted for almost half (47%) of all crime recorded in Scotland in 2017-18. Over the past ten years the volume of these crimes decreased by 32% (since 2008-09).
68. No change is proposed to this group in the alternative approach. However, users may wish to note that we are currently conducting research into the characteristics of police recorded fraud (based on a sample of crime records). Findings from this exercise will be published as part of the 2018-19 National Statistics bulletin. This will also include information from other sources on fraud that is not reported to the police.
Questions to consider
Do you have any views on how Crimes of dishonesty could be presented in the recorded crime statistics?
Fire-raising, Vandalism etc.
69. Under the existing approach, the Fire-raising, vandalism etc. group has two sub-categories; Fire-raising and Vandalism etc.
70. Crimes of Fire-raising, vandalism etc. accounted for 21% of all crime recorded in Scotland in 2017-18. Over the past ten years the volume of these crimes decreased by 53% (since 2008-09).
71. Under the alternative approach it is proposed that this group be renamed to 'Damage and reckless behaviour'. This might be more informative than the existing name, as the existing group also includes crimes related to culpable and reckless conduct.
72. In addition to the name change, the alternative approach proposes splitting the existing two sub-categories into three – Fire-raising, vandalism and Reckless conduct. This change would not involve the moving of any crimes to or from the existing Fire-raising, Vandalism etc. group, so will have no impact on time series. Annex D provides a list of each crime type under the three proposed sub-categories.
Questions to consider
Do you have any views on renaming the 'Fire raising, vandalism etc.' group to 'Crimes of damage and reckless behaviour' and the proposal to add an additional sub-category to show reckless conduct?
Do you have any other views on how crimes of Fire-raising, vandalism etc. are presented in the National Statistics on Recorded Crime?
73. Under the existing approach, the Other crimes group has four sub-categories; Crimes against public justice, handling offensive weapons, Drugs and Other. The 'Other' sub-category includes several different crime types – the most common in 2017-18 was Obstruct or hinder other emergency worker in pursuance of duty.
74. Other crimes account for almost one quarter (24%) of all crime recorded in Scotland in 2017-18. These crimes have fallen by 27% since 2008-09.
75. The Crime Board noted that the current name for this group could be more informative, and that most of the crimes included do not have a victim (in contrast to the earlier groups discussed). As such the alternative approach proposes renaming this group to 'Crimes against society'. This change would be more in line with the approach taken by the Office for National Statistics in England and Wales.
76. The alternative approach doesn't propose any other changes for this group, albeit user views are invited regarding the presentation of statistics on drug possession.
Possession of drugs
77. Drug crime makes up the majority of Other crimes, and splits into drug possession (84% of drug crime in 2017-18) and other crimes which mostly relate to drug production or the supply of drugs. Drug possession cases are where the quantity of drugs seized by the police is small enough to be considered for personal use.
78. Updated research into the characteristics of police recorded drug possession was published in March 2019. This found that:
- In 2017-18, around 54% of drug possession crimes were for cannabis or cannabis resin. A further 10% were for Cocaine, 9% for Heroin, and 6% each for Diazepam and Etizolam.
- Around 44% of drug possession cases were detected by police while on patrol – most often where the offender was suspected of or observed to be in the possession of drugs. A further 15% of drug possession cases were made by police whilst carrying out a search warrant (likely due to the receipt of intelligence that an individual was involved in drugs crime).
- The remaining 32% (around a third) were recorded as a result of police responding to a report of a crime, offence or another incident (most often where there is a victim of another crime or offence, or where a third party has reported the drug crime).
79. Recorded drug possession does not have a victim, and the research summarised above suggests that a relatively small proportion of cases come to the attention of the police through victim-based reports of other crimes or offences (which would be separately recorded in the statistics). Furthermore the punishment for drug possession is relatively less severe compared to other crimes. This included 5,372 Recorded Police Warnings in 2017-18. Where cases proceeded to court, offenders generally received either a fiscal or court based fine or other disposals which exclude custodial or community based sentences. This is in contrast to drugs-supply based crimes, where the vast majority of court cases result in either a custodial or community based sentence (see Annex E).
80. Given the above - the Crime Board would like to ask users for their views on whether any change should be made to how statistics on drug possession are presented. One option, which is currently proposed in the alternative approach, is to make no change and keep possession- based and supply-based drugs crime together, with both contributing to the national total for all police recorded crime. Users may prefer this to splitting up the presentation of drugs-based crimes within the statistics.
81. Another option could be to move drug possession (but not drug production or supply) from the 'Other crimes' group to its own 'Drug possession' offence group. Under this option the national total for all police recorded crime would exclude drug possession (for personal use) and become more focused on crimes which have victims and relatively more severe sentences – and how these evolve over time. Under this scenario cases of drug possession would be included in the national total for all police recorded offences, rather than crimes.
82. If drug possession (for personal use) was to be moved from being an 'Other Crime' to its own offence group for drug possession, then around 30,000 cases a year would switch from the total for police recorded crimes to police recorded offences. This change could be back-revised, which would result in a similar long-term decrease in recorded crime as currently shown by the National Statistics.
83. Due to how these data are collected, no distinction can be made between possessing Class A, Class B or Class C drugs – to preserve time series continuity either all cases would have to be moved or no change is made at all.
Questions to consider
Would 'Crimes against society' be a better name for the 'Other crimes' Group?
Do you have any views on how police recorded drug possession for personal use should be presented in the statistics? Should it continue to be presented in the National Statistics as a crime (i.e. included in the national totals for recorded crime) or should it be moved to become an offence, and be included in the national total for recorded offences instead?
Do you have any other views on how other crimes are presented in the National Statistics on recorded crime?
84. Under the existing approach, the Miscellaneous Offences group has five sub-categories; 'Common assault', 'Breach of the peace', 'Drunkenness and other disorderly conduct', 'Urinating etc.' and 'Other miscellaneous offences'.
85. Miscellaneous offences accounted for just over half (52%) of all offences recorded in Scotland in 2017-18. Over the past ten years the volume of these offences decreased by 40% (since 2008-09).
86. Given the diverse range of offences contained within the 'Other miscellaneous offences' sub-category – an alternative approach is to split the existing miscellaneous offences group into two new groups; 'Anti-social offences' and 'Miscellaneous offences'. This could provide the user with more detailed information on trends in certain types of offending that are currently included in a broader group alongside other miscellaneous offences.
87. The alternative Anti-social offences group is proposed to have four sub-categories. These are: 'Threatening and abusive behaviour', 'Racially aggravated conduct', 'Drunkenness and other disorderly conduct' and 'Urinating etc.'.
88. The alternative Miscellaneous offences group is proposed to have five sub-group categories: 'Community and public order offences', 'Environmental offences', 'Licensing offences', 'Wildlife offences', and 'Other miscellaneous offences'.
89. Annex C shows what the offence groups and corresponding sub-groups would look like under the alternative approach. For example, there would be 65,411 Antisocial offences recorded in 2017-18 and 11,721 Miscellaneous offences. Annex D provides a full list of offence types within each of these groups.
Questions to consider
Should the 'Miscellaneous offences' group be split into two groups - 'Anti-social offences' and 'Miscellaneous offences'? Do you have any other views on how 'Miscellaneous offences' are presented in the National Statistics on recorded crime?
Offences Relating to Motor Vehicles
90. Under the existing approach, the Motor vehicle offences group has eight sub-categories; Dangerous and careless driving, Driving under the influence, Speeding, Unlawful use of vehicle, Vehicle defect offences, Seat belt offences and Other.
91. Motor vehicle offences accounted for nearly half (48%) of all offences recorded in Scotland in 2017-18. Since 2013-14, the number of motor vehicle offences have fallen by 57%.
92. Under the alternative approach, it is proposed that this group be renamed to 'Road traffic offences'. This is in order to allow for the possibility that offences may be included in this group that do not specifically relate to a motor vehicle, but perhaps another road using vehicle, for example a bicycle.
Questions to consider
Do you have any views on renaming the 'Offences relating to motor vehicles' group to 'Road traffic offences'? Do you have any other views on how 'offences relating to motor vehicles' are presented in the National Statistics on recorded crime?