Domestic abuse: statistics recorded by the police in Scotland - 2017/18

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

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, verbal, sexual, psychological or financial abuse which 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 including online’.

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 1st April 2013, each legacy force had a bespoke system to collect the data required. Between 1st April 2013 and 31st March 2014, a new iVPD (interim Vulnerable Persons Database) system was rolled out to the then 14 Police Divisions in Scotland. From 1st April 2014 onwards, all domestic abuse data was collected through the iVPD.

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.

6.5 In addition to this, there was an increase in 2017-18 in the number and proportion of incidents where no information was recorded on the characteristics of the victim and/or the accused (from 4,522 or 8% to 10,391 or 17%).

Police Scotland advise that a procedural change was made immediately prior to 2017-18 whereby for certain non-criminal incidents of domestic abuse (i.e. where both parties were believed to have an equal involvement), details were no longer recorded for a specific victim or a specific accused. Prior to this, two incidents may have been recorded treating one party as the victim and the other as the accused and the second for the reverse position.

Whilst this change may also have had an effect on the number of domestic abuse incidents recorded by the police in 2017-18, the impact of this cannot be quantified. However, this change in procedure only relates to a very specific set of circumstances for a domestic abuse incident and the actual number of incidents of domestic abuse recorded in 2017-18 has remained very similar to all years back to 2011-12.

The upcoming introduction of the new statutory offence of domestic abuse will also have an effect on the data collection process for these statistics. As such, Scottish Government statisticians will work with Police Scotland to review both the overall approach taken to produce these statistics and how the new legislation will impact on this. This will be to ensure that these statistics remain of high value to users and we will provide updates on any changes through the SCOTSTAT network.

Police Scotland Quarterly Management Information Reports:

6.6 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:

6.7 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.

6.8 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:

6.9 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.

6.10 Incidents in this bulletin are counted against the year in which they are recorded by Police Scotland on the iVPD 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:

6.11 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

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