Recorded Police Warnings: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

The reason for the discrepancy in 2021-22 Recorded Police Warnings (RPWs) issued according to a) the Scottish Government’s Criminal Proceedings 2021-22 statistics (20,239 RPWs) and b) Police Scotland’s Direct Measures Report from Q4 2022-23 which contains data from the 2021-22 financial year (19,695 RPWs). Please also detail if the difference is due to the inclusion/exclusion of any specific crimes or whether there are different reporting rules for certain crimes etc.


Both Criminal Proceedings in Scotland and the Police Direct Measures Report draw their Recorded Police Warning (RPW) data from the Criminal History System (CHS) database. The CHS is a central database used for the electronic recording of information on persons accused and/or convicted of committing a criminal act. The CHS is maintained by Police Scotland and they are responsible for managing its operation and own the majority of the data. The CHS is a dynamic and continuously updated system and an individual RPW record can be subject to change on the CHS for a variety of reasons. For example, it may be removed after a successful appeal against it and, as with other police disposals, RPWs are also automatically removed from the CHS after the second anniversary of the disposal date.

Although the two reports do not differ in the inclusion of specific crimes and apply the same reporting rules (e.g. assignment to a financial year is based on date issued) some small differences may arise due to distinct quality assurance procedures. However, the primary distinction between the two publications and the most likely explanation for the observed discrepancy is the difference in how and when data are extracted from the CHS.

The data used by Criminal Proceedings in Scotland are based on a composite time series of monthly extractions from the CHS as outlined in Annex A of the bulletin. As such, they are not affected by the automatic second anniversary removal of RPWs. By contrast the Police Direct Measures Report is based on a single extraction of all records on a specific day. This day must necessarily fall after 31 March of the most recent reporting year, but may fall later than 1 April, e.g., due to a weekend or public holiday. It is possible, therefore, that some records from the preceding year are no longer present in the CHS at the time of their extraction due to the elapsing of their second anniversary. For example, this is a likely explanation for the majority of the difference between the RPW total for 2021-22 between the 2021-22 Police Direct Measures Report (20,794) and the 2022-23 report (19,695). We also consider this to be the most likely explanation for the majority of the higher total recorded in the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2021-22. The second anniversary removal is also the reason Criminal Proceedings in Scotland is the preferred means for longer term time series comparisons of Police direct measures issued, including RPWs.

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