Domestic abuse: statistics recorded by the Police in Scotland - 2020/21

Characteristics of victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse incidents recorded by the police in Scotland in 2020 to 2021.

3. Domestic abuse in context

There are a number of data sources which collect information on domestic abuse in Scotland. These include:

  • Police Scotland, who report the number of domestic abuse incidents recorded (presented in this publication as Official Statistics, and as Administrative Data in their Quarterly Management Information reports)
  • The Scottish Government Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS), which provides information on partner abuse
  • The Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), who have information on Procurator Fiscal markings and how many charges are reported to courts
  • The Scottish Government Criminal Proceedings in Scotland statistics, which provides information on proceedings and convictions which take place in the Scottish courts

The relationship between these sources is summarised in the following diagram.

Diagram showing links between different domestic abuse data sources

3.1. Police Scotland Quarterly Management Information reports: Background

Police Scotland publish management information on the number of incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police.

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 is not presented as Official Statistics. The annual Official Statistics on domestic abuse published within this bulletin 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.

The Quarterly Management Information reports are available from the 'Our Performance' section of Police Scotland website.

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 three months of data (from April to June), the second containing six months of data (from April to September) etc. The reports are typically published within two months of the period to which they refer.

3.2. Scottish Crime and Justice Survey: Background

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) is large-scale social survey run by the Scottish Government, which asks people about their experiences and perceptions of crime. The survey is based on a representative sample of adults (aged 16 and over), living in private households in Scotland.

The SCJS also provides results on the prevalence and nature of partner abuse. This data is collected through a self-completion module of the survey[13].

The SCJS, and all other Scottish Government face-to-face interviewing, was suspended on 17 March 2020 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The latest SCJS results, produced from interviews which took place before the suspension came into force, were published in March 2021. These cover 2019/20 and biennial self-completion results for 2018/19 and 2019/20 combined.

In 2020, the Scottish Victimisation Telephone Survey (SVTS) was developed to collect evidence on the extent and prevalence of crime in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, self-completion questions on partner abuse, for example, were excluded due to concerns around safeguarding those responding by telephone.

SCJS interviews will restart in November 2021. Interviews will be conducted over telephone or via video call, until such time it is considered safe to offer a face-to-face in-home option. When interviews are conducted over the telephone or via video call, respondents will be invited to complete the self-completion module via a web survey or via a paper form if they would prefer. For more information, visit the SCJS website.

It should be noted that whilst the SCJS uses a definition of partner abuse consistent with that adopted by Police Scotland in recording domestic abuse incidents, there are several differences that affect the comparability of the data. These include the fact that:

  • most incidents of domestic abuse go unreported to the police. The 2018/20 SCJS found that just under a sixth (16%) of those who experienced partner abuse in the 12 months prior to interview said that the police came to know about the most recent (or only) incident. The SCJS also found that when asked the reasons for not reporting the most recent (or only) incident of partner abuse to the police, the most common reasons given were that those involved dealt with the incident themselves (36%), that the abuse was too trivial/not worth reporting (31%), or that the abuse was a private, personal or family matter (30%). This is a consistent finding with previous years
  • the SCJS is a sample of those aged 16 and over living in private households. As such, adults living in other circumstances (for example tourists and those staying in institutions or communal residences, such as prisons or hospitals, military bases and student accommodation) or those aged under 16 are not included in the SCJS estimates
  • the SCJS captures the victim's self-reported experience of partner abuse. Although this part of the survey is completed in private, some respondents may choose not to disclose information on particular incidents

The most recent results, published in March 2021, includes findings on partner abuse for the period 2018/20 (results for 2018-19 and 2019-20 have been combined to carry out the analysis).

The SCJS found that between 2008/09 and 2018/20 the proportion of respondents who had a partner, or contact with an ex-partner, in the 12 months prior to interview who experienced any partner abuse decreased from 4.2% to 3.2%. There has been no statistically significant change between 2016/18[14] and 2018/20 in the proportion of respondents experiencing any partner abuse in the 12 months prior to interview. A higher proportion of women than men experienced partner abuse in the 12 months prior to interview, at 3.7% and 2.6% respectively.

More detailed information, along with explanatory notes, is available on the SCJS website.

3.3. Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service: Background

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) publish management information on the number of charges reported to COPFS with a domestic abuse aggravator recorded against them. These figures also include the number taken forward to court, dealt with by direct measures (such as a fine), or where no action was taken.

COPFS' Domestic Abuse and Stalking Charges 2020-21 Statistics on the number of charges reported to them

showed that the percentage of charges for stalking with a domestic abuse identifier fell from 72% in 2018-19 to 65% in 2019-20 and 57% in 2020-21.

More detailed information, along with explanatory notes, is available in the statistics section of the COPFS website.

3.4. Criminal Proceedings in Scotland statistics: Background

Statistics on proceedings and convictions which take place in the Scottish courts are published through the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland publication. These statistics are derived from data held on the Criminal History System (CHS), a central database used for the recording of information on persons accused and/or convicted of committing a criminal act. The publication presents the number of convictions under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) 2018, convictions for crimes with statutory aggravations for domestic abuse, and convictions for crimes where a domestic abuse identifier was applied. Aggravations need to be proved in court and are taken into account during sentencing, which may result in a higher penalty being given.

There were 206 convictions in 2019-20 for crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. This was out of 246 people proceeded against, giving a conviction rate of 84%. The majority of people (61%) convicted under this Act in 2019-20 received a community sentence and 19% received a custodial sentence with an average sentence length of about a year (363 days). Although this crime came into effect at the start of 2019-20, the full course of conduct has to have taken place on or after 1 April 2019. Therefore there will have been a time lag before such crimes could be reported, hence this year does not effectively cover a full year under the Act and further data is needed before sentencing patterns are clear.

A statutory aggravation for domestic abuse involving a child can be applied to crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. There were 38 convictions for this aggravation in 2019-20. As per the crime, it came into effect for a course of conduct committed on or after 1 April 2019, and so does not effectively cover a full year.

The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 created a statutory aggravation of domestic abuse which came into force in April 2017. This can be applied to any relevant crime or offence (for example to Common assault). This aggravation was proven in 8,120 convictions in 2019-20, which is a 5% increase from 7,751 in 2018-19.

In 2019-20, the most common crime types with a domestic abuse statutory aggravation that people were convicted of were Breach of the peace (44% of domestic abuse convictions), followed by Common assault (26%) and Crimes against public justice (19%). The vast majority of the Breach of the peace-type convictions were for offences of Threatening or abusive behaviour or Stalking.

The CHS also includes some codes that are not statutory, but are used as identifiers to highlight particular cases to the police, COPFS, or Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. This includes an identifier for domestic abuse, which identifies domestic abuse related charges for operational purposes, whether or not the statutory domestic abuse aggravation applies to them. There were 9,355 convictions where a domestic abuse identifier was recorded against the main charge in 2019-20, an increase of 2% from 2018-19 (9,205 convictions). This represents the first year this has increased after decreases each year since 2015-16 onwards.

Note that the introduction of the new domestic abuse crime under the Domestic

Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 in 2019-20 may have affected the number of convictions with a domestic abuse identifier or statutory aggravation. This crime covers a course of conduct. Before the introduction of the crime, this may have resulted in multiple convictions for different offences at different times, whereas now they may result in

a single conviction (with a more severe penalty).



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