Drug seizures and offender characteristics: 2014-2015 and 2015-2016

Statistical bulletin on drug seizures recorded by Police Scotland in 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016.

This document is part of a collection

Analysis of the characteristics of drug possession crimes

  • Information about the offenders of drug possession crimes and how they came to the attention of the police was also recorded from the sample of 800 records across 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Characteristics of Offenders

  • The vast majority of drug possession crimes were committed by one offender, with only 3% of crimes having multiple offenders (these situations can occur where offenders collectively admit to ownership of the seized drugs, or if no one admits to ownership).
  • The vast majority of drug possession crimes are committed by males or all male groups. In both 2014-15 and 2015-16, 85% of drug possessions were committed by individual males, with a further 2% committed by entirely male groups.
  • The mean average age of a drug possession offender during 2014-15 and 2015-16 was 30 years old. Table 8 shows the age distribution of the offenders in the sample.

Table 8: Age distribution of offenders of drug possession crime

Age group of offender Percentage of offenders Percentage of total population 1
0-19 16% 22%
20-29 38% 14%
30-39 27% 12%
40-49 15% 14%
50+ 4% 38%

1. Population figures are based on the National Records of Scotland mid-year estimates for 2014 and 2015 (percentages were the same in both years).

  • The majority of offenders are in the 20-29 years or 30-39 years age groups. Offenders are far more likely to come from these two age groups than would be expected based solely on their size within the general population.
  • In just over a fifth of drug possession crimes (22%) there was a reference to someone being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In the majority of these cases it refers to the offender, however in a small number of cases it is in reference to another party.

How Police Scotland became aware of the Drug Possession Crime

  • The circumstances leading to a drug possession seizure have been recorded based on the details of the event within the crime record. As crime records have not been created specifically for this purpose, it has been necessary on occasion to make assumptions around certain aspects of what happened. As such this information should be seen as a broad illustration, rather than a precise measure.
  • During 2014-15 and 2015-16, over half (53%) of drug possessions in the sample were detected by police while on patrol. The majority of these were cases where the police on patrol had a suspicion or observed that the offender was in possession of drugs, with this category accounting for 39% of all records reviewed. A further 14% of records involved police on patrol dealing with another crime, offence or incident and finding drugs while doing this.
  • Nearly a quarter (24%) of drug possessions were found as a result of police responding to a report of a crime, offence or another reported incident. A further 22% of drug possession seizures were made by police during investigations into an earlier crime, offence or incident.

Other information about the Drug Seizure

  • During 2014-15 and 2015-16, 5% of crime records for drug possession made reference to the involvement of NHS services. This involvement was not necessarily for the offender of the drug possession crime, and will not necessarily be linked to the use of drugs.
  • More than one crime was recorded in 37% of records in the sample. The additional crimes recorded are not necessarily committed by the same person responsible for the drug possession crime. In over half (54%) of the records where another crime was recorded, at least one of the other crimes was also in relation to drug possession or supply.
  • Drug seizures were more common over the weekend, with Fridays and Saturdays accounting for 20% and 19% of the sample respectively.
  • The most common location for drugs to be seized from an offender was the street, with 48% of records reviewed having this locus. Dwellings were the next most common locus, with just over a quarter (27%) of seizures.


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