Domestic abuse: statistics recorded by the police in Scotland - 2016/17

Characteristics of victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse incidents recorded by the police in Scotland.

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Annex 1: Data Sources and Definitions

Domestic Abuse

6.1 A statistical collection on domestic abuse (previously referred to as domestic violence) was introduced in 1999. The definition of domestic abuse used by Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS) is:

'Any form of physical, sexual or mental and emotional abuse [that] might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of a relationship. The relationship will be between partners (married, cohabiting, civil partnership or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse can be committed in the home or elsewhere'.

Data Collection:

6.2 The main Scottish Government Statement of Administrative Sources covers all sources of administrative data used by Scottish Government statisticians. This statement can be found on the Scottish Government website at:

A separate statement of administrative sources is available for police statistics via the following link:

6.3 The creation of Police Scotland has altered the way in which domestic abuse data has been collected. Prior to 1 st April 2013, each legacy force had a bespoke system to collect the data required. Between 1 st April 2013 and 31 st March 2014, a new VPD (Vulnerable Person Database) system was rolled out to the then 14 Police Divisions in Scotland. At this time this was referred to as the interim Vulnerable Persons Database but is now simply referred to as the Vulnerable Persons Database. From 1 st April 2014 onwards, all domestic abuse data was collected through the VPD. In summary:

  • 2012-13 (and previous years) - Data collected from the eight legacy force systems
  • 2013-14 - Data collected from the VPD (approx. 15%) and from legacy force systems (approx. 85%)
  • 2014-15 onwards - Data collected from the VPD

6.4 Due to the changes in Data Collection, tables and figures are presented with clear breaks in the time series between 2013-14 and 2014-15. As such, some caution should be exercised in interpreting the statistics on the number of incidents recorded across years.

Police Scotland Quarterly Management Information Reports:

6.5 Police Scotland publishes management information on the number of incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police. This is presented within their Quarterly Management Information Reports, which are available from the 'Our Performance' section of Police Scotland's website:

6.6 These reports are produced to demonstrate Police Scotland's commitment to transparency (alongside other regular reporting activity to the Scottish Police Authority). The information within these reports is presented on a cumulative quarterly basis, with the first quarter of a reporting year containing 3 months of data (from April to June), the second containing 6 months of data (from April to September) etc. The reports are typically published within 2 months of the period to which they refer.

6.7 The Quarterly Management Information Reports make clear to users that the data they contain on incidents of domestic abuse is based on the Administrative Data available to Police Scotland at that time and not the Official Statistics. The annual Official Statistics published by the Scottish Government on domestic abuse are based on management information which has undergone further quality assurance work, including additional dialogue with Police Scotland, in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

Data Definitions:

6.8 In one criminal incident, several crimes or offences may occur - e.g. an accused may assault their spouse and damage their car in the process. In this example, crimes of vandalism and assault would be recorded. Statistics in this bulletin either relate to the number of incidents recorded or the number of incidents with at least one crime or offence committed.

6.9 Incidents in this bulletin are counted against the year in which they are recorded by Police Scotland on the VPD system. Not all incidents are reported to the police immediately following their occurrence. As such each year's figures on incidents of domestic abuse will include a proportion of incidents committed in earlier years.

Recording Crimes & Offences:

6.10 Contraventions of Scottish criminal law are divided for statistical purposes into crimes and offences. The term "crime" is generally used for the more serious criminal acts; the less serious are termed "offences". The distinction is made only for statistical reporting purposes and has no impact on how the police investigate reports of criminal activity. The "seriousness" of the offence is generally related to the maximum sentence that can be imposed.


Email: Mark Bell

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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