Presenting official statistics on recorded crime and related topics: consultation

The Scottish Crime Recording Board are asking how the official statistics on recorded crime and related topics should be presented.

Part Three

Cyber-crime in Scotland

93. As the nature of crime in Scotland has evolved over the past decade, so too has the role played by cyber-enabled technologies.

94. An example of this has been the impact of the internet on sexual crimes recorded by the police. Research published in 2017 suggested that around half of the growth in all recorded sexual crime between 2013-14 and 2016-17 was due to growth in cyber-enabled 'Other sexual crimes'. This includes crimes like communicating indecently (58% cyber-enabled in 2016-17) and causing others to view sexual activity or images (71%)[26].

95. In 2018 the Scottish Government published a review of the evidence on cyber-crime in Scotland[27]. This found that cyber-technology can impact on any type of crime – for example sexual crime, fraud and computer misuse, though it is likely to have had less of an impact on non-sexual violent crime, drug possession and stalking/harassment.

96. The review also noted that cyber-crime is conceptualised as a method or locus through which crime takes place, rather than it being a distinct type of crime or group. As such it wouldn't be practical to propose a distinct crime group within the National Statistics on 'cyber-crime' - as crime types are not defined as being 'cyber-enabled' and not all crimes committed for those crime-types that might be candidates for such a group (for example fraud) are committed online.

97. Police Scotland introduced a cyber-marker to their crime recording systems in 2016, to help identify crimes and offences with a cyber-element. Two examples of criminal behaviour where the marker could be applied include;

  • A company employee accidentally opening an email attachment containing ransomware. This encrypts the company's electronic files, rendering them unusable. An associated demand is made by 'pop up' message requesting payment to decrypt the files.
  • A person is sent abusive and threatening messages through a social media app via their smart phone.

98. Police Scotland are currently considering how to enhance the use of this marker, which requires challenging the definitions and perceptions of 'cyber-crime' and acknowledging the limitation of current legacy systems (which can make it difficult to draw information into a national picture for all of Scotland).

99. When fully implemented, the cyber-marker approach offers the best route through which new analysis can be included in the recorded crime National Statistics on the proportion of crime that is cyber-enabled and how this has changed over time.

100. In the shorter term, one option could be to include a dedicated chapter (to be updated annually) in the recorded crime National Statistics bulletin. This would present and discuss the latest available information on recorded cyber-crime in Scotland, progress with the cyber-marker and other developments that could enhance the available evidence on this topic.

Questions to consider

Question Twenty

Would a dedicated chapter on cyber-enabled crime within the National Statistics bulletin be useful? Do you have any other views or suggestions as to how crimes or offences involving a cyber-element should be presented within the statistics?

Other suggested approaches

101. The alternative approach presented within Part two of this consultation (and the annexes) represents a potential rearrangement of the National Statistics on recorded crime, to reflect the changing nature of crime and to inform the response of the criminal justice system.

102. The Crime Board recognises that users may have views on other alternative approaches that they'd like it to consider.

103. As background to this consultation, an examination of how other countries classify crimes was conducted - from which a summary of the methods and a breakdown of crime classification for the selected countries is provided in Annex F. This work concluded that there is no single 'best' way to present crime statistics with each country using a unique crime classification structure which is in part guided by the views of their users and each country's own body of legislation.

Questions to consider

Question Twenty One

Based on the discussion above and the purpose statement and supporting principles proposed in Part one, do you have any additional views regarding how data on police recorded crimes and offences should be categorised and presented in the National Statistics?



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