Homicide in Scotland, 2011-12

Statistical bulletin on crimes of homicide recorded by the police in Scotland in 2011-12

This document is part of a collection

4. Notes on statistics used in this bulletin

4.1 The figures within this bulletin provide details on cases of homicide. This includes all crimes of either murder or culpable homicide but excludes all cases of causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, causing death by careless driving and illegal driver involved in fatal accident. In 2011-12, Scottish police forces recorded a total of 28 crimes of causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, causing death by careless driving and illegal driver involved in fatal accident. Source: Scottish Government, Recorded Crime in Scotland statistical bulletin.

4.2 The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force on 6 April 2008. This introduced a new offence for convicting an organisation where a gross failure in the way activities have been managed or organised, results in a person's death. This applies to a wide range of organisations across the public and private sectors. In 2011-12, there were no cases of corporate homicide reported by the police in Scotland. Source: Scottish Government, Recorded Crime in Scotland statistical bulletin.

4.3 The summary figures presented in this bulletin are derived from information provided by the eight Scottish police forces in respect of each case, that is initially recorded as homicide. A homicide case is included against the year in which it is recorded by the police. This is not necessarily the year in which the crime took place, the year in which the accused is brought to trial for the crime, or the year in which the case is finally disposed of by the courts. This may lead to minor differences between the figures reported in this bulletin and those published by police forces.

4.4 A single case of homicide is counted for each incident involving murder or culpable homicide irrespective of the number of victims or accused. For the purposes of this bulletin an accused person in a homicide case is defined as:

(i) a person who has been arrested in respect of an offence initially classified as homicide and charged with homicide or

(ii) a person who is suspected by the police of having committed the offence but is known to have died or committed suicide prior to arrest/being charged.

More than one accused person may be tried for an offence and sometimes no accused person is ever brought to trial. Therefore the number of accused will not necessarily be the same as the number of homicide cases.

4.5 Where more than one person is accused of committing a homicide, the main accused is taken as the person who received the severest penalty. If more than one possible main accused is identified, then the first person recorded on the statistical return that is submitted annually by the police forces is selected. Similarly, if a person is accused of killing more than one victim, the main victim is the person for whom the accused received the severest penalty for killing. Where more than one possible main victim can be identified, then the first person recorded on the statistical return is selected as the main victim.

4.6 The figures provided in this bulletin are as known to the Scottish Government as at 6 November 2012. The initial classification of a case as murder or culpable homicide is made by the police. This classification may be altered as a result of decisions taken during the course of criminal proceedings. For example, it may be determined that a homicide did not take place if an accused person is found guilty of a lesser charge in court, such as serious assault; or where it has been concluded by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) that a victim actually committed suicide and that no further criminal proceedings are required. Hence, some cases initially classified as homicide will, on the basis of criminal proceedings, no longer be classified as such at a later date. For this reason, and as a result of continual data checking, trend data may differ slightly from year-to-year. In addition, late data returns may occasionally be submitted by police forces which will result in revisions to the next issue of this bulletin.

4.7 It has not been possible to carry out the matching of homicide police returns with court proceedings data since 2006-07 due to data matching issues which have been identified. Consequently, there may be a small overcount of the number of cases currently recorded as homicide as the classification of some cases could have altered as a result of decisions taken during the course of criminal proceedings. This area of work is currently being investigated by Justice Analytical Services and data users will be notified of any resulting outcomes through ScotStat.

4.8 For those cases with multiple accused which are currently recorded as homicide, the co-accused are included in the statistics in this bulletin regardless of whether or not they were ultimately charged with homicide. For example, if the main accused person is found guilty of homicide by the court but the co-accused are found guilty of serious assault then the co-accused continue to be counted as persons accused of cases currently recorded as homicide.

4.9 Only one method of killing has been selected for each victim. The main method is taken to be the most serious of those methods recorded. Methods of killing have been ranked in the following order of priority: shooting, sharp instrument, blunt instrument, hitting and kicking, strangulation/asphyxiation, drowning, fire, poisoning and other/unknown. The term "sharp instrument" includes knives, broken bottles, swords, sharpened screwdrivers and any other pointed or edged weapons. The main method of "poisoning" includes the use of drugs, gas and carbon monoxide poisoning.

4.10 When considering the relationship of the main accused person to the victim, the term "partner or ex-partner" includes: spouse, separated or divorced spouse, cohabitee, lover, boy/girlfriend and ex-boy/girlfriend.

4.11 The motive behind committing a homicide is as determined by the police. For simplicity of presentation, only one motive for killing is recorded by the police for each accused person.

4.12 In the context of this bulletin "drug-related" is defined as a homicide motivated by a need to obtain drugs or money for drugs, a homicide of a consumer or supplier of drugs or a homicide as a consequence of rivalry within the drugs trade between users and dealers.

4.13 In the context of Chart 3 and Table 3 of this bulletin crimes of violence recorded by the police are defined as:

Homicide -


  • Murder
  • Culpable homicide
    • Causing death by dangerous driving
    • Causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs
    • Causing death by careless driving
    • Illegal driver involved in fatal accident
    • Corporate homicide

Attempted murder -

Attempted murder

Serious assault -

Serious assault

Robbery -

Robbery and assault with intent to rob

Abduction -


  • Child stealing (plagium)
  • Abduction

Rape & attempted rape -


  • Rape
  • Attempted rape

Sexual assault -


  • Contact sexual assault (13 to 15 year old or adult 16+)
  • Sexually coercive conduct (13 to 15 year old or adult 16+)
  • Sexual offences against children under 13 years
  • Lewd and libidinous practices

Common assault -


  • Common assault
  • Common assault on an emergency worker

4.14 In Scotland, assault is a common law offence. In order to distinguish between serious and common assaults, police forces use a common definition of what a serious assault is, namely:

An assault or attack in which the victim sustains injury resulting in detention in hospital as an inpatient, for the treatment of that injury, or any of the following injuries whether or not detained in hospital:

  • Fractures (the breaking or cracking of a bone. Note - nose is cartilage not bone, so a 'broken nose' should not be classified unless it meets one of the other criteria)
  • Internal injuries
  • Severe concussion
  • Lacerations requiring sutures which may lead to impairment or disfigurement
  • Any other injury which may lead to impairment or disfigurement.

The following are not included in the definition of serious assault:

  • Detention in hospital as an inpatient, for observation only
  • Lacerations which are unlikely to lead to impairment or disfigurement
  • Loss of consciousness
  • A broken nose (Note - a broken or cracked nose is classed as a common assault as the nose is made of cartilage and not bone)
  • A broken tooth
  • Bruising or red marks.

Please note that slight changes to the definition of serious assault were made in April 2011. Loss of consciousness is no longer included in the definition of what constitutes a serious assault.

4.15 Population data are derived from relevant mid-year population estimates prepared by the National Records of Scotland: http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/population/estimates/mid-year/index.html.

4.16 The percentage figures given in tables and charts have been independently rounded, so they may not always sum to the relevant sub-totals or totals.

4.17 Only a limited selection of tables are included in this bulletin. However, further analysis of homicide statistics can be supplied upon request. This includes available information relating to a different time period than that covered in this bulletin. In certain cases, a fee may be charged for additional information. For details of what can be provided, please telephone Justice Analytical Services on 0131 244 2635 or e-mail JusticeAnalysts@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.

4.18 The following symbols are used throughout the tables in this bulletin:

- = nil

: = data not available

4.19 Under the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, the estimated costs of responding to statistical surveys and data collection are to be published.

The estimated cost of compliance for supplying and validating the data for this bulletin is: £500.

Details of the calculation methodology are available on the Scottish Government Crime and Justice website at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/costcalculation


Email: Neil Henderson

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