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.

Annex 2: Data sources and quality

The creation of Police Scotland has altered the way in which domestic abuse data has been collected. Prior to 1 April 2013, each legacy police force had a bespoke system to collect the data required. Between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014, the interim Vulnerable Persons Database (iVPD) system was rolled out to the then 14 police divisions in Scotland. From 1 April 2014 onwards, all domestic abuse data was collected through the iVPD.

To reflect these changes in data collection, tables and figures in this bulletin are presented with clear breaks in the time series between 2013-14 and 2014-15. The break is denoted by a dashed line and labelled to highlight the change to the data source. Caution should be exercised when making comparisons over time and when interpreting variation in the number of incidents recorded across years.

The data in this bulletin covers the current 13 police divisions in Scotland (across all 32 local authorities). Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire & Moray police divisions merged together to form the North East police division in January 2016.

The data presented in this bulletin is a snapshot of domestic abuse incidents recorded on the iVPD at the end of the financial year.

5.6. Process of logging an incident

When a victim and/or witness makes initial contact with the police regarding a domestic abuse incident, Police Scotland log the incident in their System for Tasking and Operational Resource Management (STORM), Police Scotland's national command and control system[15].

STORM is largely used for resource allocation purposes. Depending on the information supplied and the outcome of additional enquiries, the incident may result in the creation of one or more crime reports on the relevant crime management system (CMS).

Once the police have assessed the incident, they determine if a vulnerable person record is to be set up in iVPD. The purpose of the iVPD is to collect information on people who are deemed to be in a vulnerable situation, to ensure that any concerns for the victim (or any other person subject of concern) are assessed and appropriate actions are taken.

Incidents in this bulletin are counted against the year in which they are recorded by Police Scotland on the iVPD system[16]. 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.

It is important to recognise that amendments to crime and offence records may occur following submission of figures by Police Scotland to the Scottish Government. This may be due to the reclassification of crimes into different crime groups or, no crime being established after further investigation by police into the originally reported offence.

5.7. Additional information on the trend data

In addition to this, as seen in Section 2.7 there has been an increase since 2016-17 in the proportion of incidents where the relationship between the victim and suspected perpetrator is unknown. Further to this, the proportion of cases where no information was recorded on the characteristics of the victim and/or the suspected perpetrator has also been increasing (from 4,522 or 8% in 2016-17 to 16,845 or 26% by 2021-22).

Police Scotland have advised 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 suspected perpetrator. Prior to this, two incidents may have been recorded treating one party as the victim and the other as the suspected perpetrator 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, the impact of this cannot be quantified.

There has also been a gradual increase in the number and proportion of incidents where the specific relationship (i.e. Spouse/Civil Partner, Co-habitee, Partner etc.) of those involved was unknown (to 11,557 or 18% by 2021-22). There can always be some occasions where no information can be provided on the specific relationship, for example where a domestic abuse victim is identified, but the perpetrator's identity remains unknown.

In other cases (and similar to the above) where no criminal behaviour can be evidenced, it is possible none of the individuals involved will be recorded as a perpetrator. In such instances a 'Not known' or 'Relationship not recorded' value may be selected. There may remain some variation across Scotland in the approach to recording these specific variables, with Police Scotland recently re-issuing guidance to Officers. This in turn may have led to the increase highlighted above in the proportion of incidents where detailed information on the specific relationship between those involved was not recorded.

As discussed in Section 4.1, due to nearly one-in-five (18%) domestic abuse incident records in 2021-22 containing an 'Unknown' relationship, as agreed with Police Scotland the Scottish Government will review the suitability of the data we receive and consider potential ways to improve the accuracy of these statistics.

5.8. Further information on incidents without a crime or offence recorded

In 2016-17, Scottish Government statisticians reviewed a sample of domestic abuse incidents which did not include the recording of at least one crime or offence, to provide users with additional information on the circumstances of these incidents. Four hundred incidents from 2016-17 were randomly selected from the iVPD and a synopsis of each case was recorded. The findings, presented below, should be treated as a broad indication of the characteristics of these incidents. They are not an exact measure, given the associated possibility of sampling error and wide range of behaviours covered.

Around half of these incidents (52%) in 2016-17 were based on some form of argument between partners or ex-partners that excluded any reference to a physical confrontation or threatening behaviour. Of these cases, around two-thirds include one of the partners/ex-partners contacting the police, whilst in around 30% of cases a third party or other witness did so. A quarter of cases that refer to some form of argument include one of the parties contacting the police as they wanted the other person to leave.

Around a fifth of these incidents (19%) were based on concern about the communication or attempted communication of one partner/ex-partner towards the other (excluding any reference to an argument or a specific crime or offence). In almost all these cases it was one of the partners/ex-partners that contacted the police. This involved a range of different incidents, including frequent references to unwanted communication or attempted communication, which could be through electronic means (text messages, phone call) or in person. This category also includes incidents where one party was concerned about what their partner/ex-partner has said about them (sometimes to third parties).

Beyond the incidents above, the other cases cover a diverse range of situations. Some included the police being contacted for advice or an individual raising concerns without reference to any specific incident (7% of the sample). In some instances the police were contacted by one partner/ex-partner out of concern for the wellbeing of the other party (3%) or by someone wishing to retrieve their belongings from a partner/ex-partner (3%).

Finally, some incidents recorded in the iVPD in 2016-17 were best described as situations in which it is inferred that a crime or offence may have taken place (13% of the sample). In most of these cases (11% of the sample) further investigation determined either that a crime or offence had not occurred (for example by the police reviewing the content of text messages that were alleged to be threatening) or there was insufficient evidence for the police to record a crime or offence. In the other cases (2% of the sample), further discussion with Police Scotland determined that these incidents did include a crime or offence. This splits into cases where a crime or offence had been recorded in crime management systems[17] but not added to the iVPD or where no crime or offence had been recorded at all.



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