Domestic abuse: statistics recorded by the police in Scotland - 2021/22

Characteristics of victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse incidents recorded by the police in Scotland in 2021 to 2022.

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.

Police Scotland domestic abuse incidents includes crimes and offences which are reported to COPFS. This data feeds into COPFS statistics which includes COPFS markings and charges marked for Courts. This data feeds into Scottish courts statistics includes which includes proceedings and convictions. Separate to this are the SCJS statistics which provides information on partner abuse, collected through a self-completion element of the survey.

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[11].

Along with the other large household surveys that rely on face-to-face interviews, the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) was suspended in March 2020 to restrict social contact during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

Fieldwork for the SCJS resumed in late 2021, with a full year's worth of interviews due to be complete by December and findings published in mid-2023. 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[12] 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 2021-22 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 both 2020-21 and 2021-22.

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 concluded in Scottish courts are published in Criminal Proceedings in Scotland. These statistics are derived from data held on the Criminal History System (CHS). This is a central database used for recording information on suspected perpetrators and those convicted of committing a crime. The publication presents the number of convictions under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 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.

The most recent available data is from Criminal Proceedings in Scotland: 2020-2021. Data from 2020-21 were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent court closures. Consequently caution is urged when interpreting the volume and mix of cases concluded in 2020-21. For context figures for 2019-20 are shown alongside those from 2020-21 below.

In 2019-20 there were 212 convictions under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, with a further 383 convictions in 2020-21. This was out of 252 and 420 people proceeded against, respectively, giving conviction rates of 84% and 91%. Although this crime came into effect at the start of 2019-20, the full course of conduct had 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 2019-20 does not effectively cover a full year under the Act. The majority of people (62% in 2019-20 and 56% in 2020-21) convicted under this Act received a community sentence. Just under a fifth (18% in 2019-20 and 19% in 2020-21) received a custodial sentence with an average sentence length of around a year (363 days in 2019-20 and 438 days in 2020-21). This was the only crime type to show an increase in the number of proceedings in 2020-21, when the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent court closures impacted heavily on the capacity for cases to be heard in court.

A statutory aggravation for domestic abuse involving a child can be applied to crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. There were 39 convictions for this aggravation in 2019-20 and 90 convictions in 2020-21. As stated above, as the Act came into effect for a course of conduct committed on or after 1 April 2019 the 2019-20 data 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). Where this aggravation was proven against the main charge 8,174 people were convicted in 2019-20, with 6,515 such convictions in 2020-21. The 2019-20 figure represents a 5% increase from the 7,751 convictions in 2018-19.

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 9,420 convictions where a domestic abuse identifier was recorded against the main charge in 2019-20 and 7,577 convictions in 2020-21. The 2019-20 figure represents an increase of 2% from 2018-19 (9,205 convictions). 2019-20 was the first increase following successive decreases dating back to 2015-16.

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, each with the statutory aggravation and/or identifier applied, whereas now they may result in a single conviction (with a more severe penalty).



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