Publication - Statistics

Homicide in Scotland 2019-2020: statistics

Statistical bulletin on crimes of homicide recorded by the police in Scotland in 2019-2020.

Homicide in Scotland 2019-2020: statistics
Commentary

Commentary

Homicide cases

Table 1; Charts 1, 2

  • The number of homicide cases recorded by the police in Scotland increased by 3% (or two cases) between 2018-19 and 2019-20 from 62 to 64. This remains one of the lowest number of recorded homicide cases for a single twelve month period since 1976, the first year for which comparable data are available.
  • Following a generally downward trend between 2004-05 and 2012-13 the number of homicide cases in Scotland has remained relatively stable with between 59 and 64 recorded each year during 2012-13 to 2019-20 (Chart 1).
Chart 1: Cases recorded as homicide by the police, Scotland, 1999-00 to 2019-20
Line graph showing a general fall in homicide cases between 1999-00 to 2019-20.
  • Homicide cases involving more than one victim are relatively rare, in 2019-20 there were no cases with more than one victim (Table 1).
Table 1: Summary table of homicide cases, victims and accused persons, Scotland, 2010-11 to 2019-20
2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Total number of cases 98 91 63 61 63 59 62 59 62 64
Cases by number of victims:
1 victim 97 90 63 60 63 59 59 59 61 64
2 or more victims 1 1 - 1 - - 3 - 1 -
Cases by number of accused:
1 accused 68 66 45 47 50 48 48 45 41 54
2 accused 19 13 11 8 9 9 5 8 10 6
3 or more accused 10 10 6 6 4 1 6 5 8 3
Unsolved cases 1 2 1 - - 1 3 1 3 1
Total number of victims 100 93 63 62 63 59 65 59 63 64
Total number of accused 142 127 85 90 81 69 78 81 85 76
Median age of victims 33 35 38 42 41 37 40 39 42 44
Median age of accused 28 29 30 30 31 29 30 35 30 33
  • In 2019-20, Glasgow City had the highest number of homicide cases (12), representing 19% of the Scottish total (Table 2). Glasgow City has a higher share of homicides compared to its population (with 12% of the Scottish population in 2019[1]). It is important to note however that victims may not necessarily reside in the local authority where the homicide took place. Glasgow City has also witnessed a relatively larger fall in homicides of 54% since 2010-11, accounting for over two-fifths (41%) of the overall national decrease.
Chart 2: Location of homicide cases, where known, Scotland, 2010-11 to 2019-20
Line graph showing the proportion of homicide cases by location. Since 2010-11, most homicides occurred in a dwelling.
  • In 2019-20, 66% of homicides occurred within a residential location (dwelling and other residential), 20% in outdoor public places (street, footpath and open outdoor area) and 13% in indoor public places (Chart 2). In 2019-20, one case (2%) occurred within a prison.

Victims of homicide

Table 5; Charts 3, 4

  • Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the number of homicide victims in Scotland increased by 2% (or one victims), from 63 to 64 (Chart 3).
Chart 3: Total number of victim and victims by gender, Scotland, 1999-00 to 2019-20
Line chart showing a fall in the number of homicide victims between 1999-00 to 2019-20, with this reduction driven by a fall in male victims.
  • In 2019-20, there were 45 male victims, representing 70% of all homicide victims. Males are more likely to be victims compared to females, with an overall rate for males of 17 victims per million population, more than double the rate for females (7 victims per million population).
  • Chart 4 shows the victimisation rate by age group and gender for homicides since 2010-11 (i.e. for the past 10 years – representing 691 victims). For most age groups, the victimisation rate is higher for males than for females, though rates were almost identical for those aged between one and 15 years old. The victimisation rate for males peaks in the 21 to 30 years old and 31 to 50 years old age groups.
  • The median age of a victim of homicide in 2019-20 was 44 years old, two years higher than in 2018-19 when the median age of a victim was 42 years old. Over the past ten years the median age of a victim has ranged between 33 and 44 years old (Table 1).
Chart 4: Age profile of homicide victimisation rate by gender, Scotland, 2010-11 to 2019-20
Bar chart showing the age and gender profile of homicide victimization rate, showing that the highest rates occur in the 31 – 50 and 21 – 30 age groups.

Persons accused of homicide

Table 6; Charts 5, 6

  • The number of people accused of homicide has shown an overall downward trend since 2004-05 (Chart 5). In 2019-20, there were 76 persons accused of homicide, nine less than in 2018-19. This is the second lowest since 1980-81.
  • The vast majority of persons accused of homicide since 2000-01 have been male, making up 92% of all accused in 2019-20.
  • Of the 64 cases of homicide recorded for 2019-20, 63 were solved and one is currently unsolved.
Chart 5: Total number of accused and accused by gender, Scotland, 1999-00 to 2019-20
Line chart showing a fall in the number of those accused of homicide between 1999-00 to 2019-20, with this reduction driven by a fall in male accused.
  • In 2019-20, the total number of individuals accused of homicide equated to 14 per million population.
  • In 2019-20, the rates for those accused of homicide were similar for the 16 to 20 (27 per million population), 21 to 30 (26) and 31 to 50 (27) year old age groups.
  • Chart 6 shows the rate for accused by age group and gender for homicides since 2010-11 (i.e. for the past 10 years – representing 914 accused). The rates for males accused of homicide per million population were considerably higher across all age groups than for females.
  • In 2019-20, the median age of a person accused of homicide was 33 years old, which is three years older than in 2018-19 when the median age was 30 years old. Over the past ten years the median age of a person accused of homicide ranged between 28 and 35 years old (Table 1).
Chart 6: Age and gender profile of persons accused of homicide per million population, Scotland, 2010-11 to 2019-20
Bar chart showing the age and gender profile of persons accused of homicide per million population, showing that the highest rates occur in the 31 – 50 and 21 – 30 age groups.

Method

Table 7; Chart 7

  • Chart 7 shows that the most common main method of killing in each of the last ten years was with a sharp instrument. This includes 55% (35) of homicide victims in 2019-20, of which all but three involved a knife. The next most common main method was hitting and kicking, accounting for 22% (14) of homicide victims in 2019-20.
  • Homicide by shooting is relatively rare in Scotland. In 2019-20, there was one victim recorded and since 2010-11 there has only been two other years where more than two victims were recorded (2011-12 and 2018-19).
Chart 7: Victims of homicide by main method of killing, 2010-11 to 2019-20
Series of histograms showing the percentage of victims killed by main method of killing for each year since 2010-11, highlighting the most common method in each year was with a sharp instrument.

Relationship of main accused to victim

Tables 8-10; Charts 8-9

  • The victim and main accused were known to each other in a majority of cases, representing 60% of homicide cases solved in 2019-20. The accused was not known to the victim in sixteen cases (25%). This latter group includes ten cases where the victim was not known to the accused and six cases where the victim was known to the accused. Of those cases where the victim and accused were known to each other, 66% were acquaintances, 24% were partners or ex-partners and 11% were relatives. The relationship to the main accused was unknown in the remaining 14% of cases.
  • Chart 8 shows the percentage of homicides for male and female victims by their relationship to the main accused for all victims since 2010-11. Over the past ten years, a majority of male victims were killed by an acquaintance (57%). In comparison, over the same period, female victims most likely to be killed by a partner or ex-partner (44%).
  • For the latest year of 2019-20, of the 44 male victims, over two-fifths (43% or 19 victims) were killed by an acquaintance, whereas female victims were more likely to be killed by a partner or ex-partner, 7 (37%) of the 19 victims.
  • Table 9 shows that between 2010-11 and 2019-20, a total of 35 children under the age of 16 years were victims of homicide (where there was an accused person). Of these, 74% were killed by one of their parents. Since 2010-11 there have been 13 victims aged under one year old and in all but two cases (where there was an accused person) the main accused was a parent.
Chart 8: Relationship between victim and main accused, by victim gender, Scotland, 2010-11 to 2019
Bar charts illustrating the relationship between victims and accused by victim gender over the last ten years.
  • Table 9 also shows that for all homicides recorded in the last ten years, 59% of male victims aged between 16 and 70 years old were killed by an acquaintance, 24% were killed by a stranger, 5% were killed by a partner or ex-partner and 4% were killed by a relative or their son or daughter. Just over half (54%) of female victims aged between 16 and 70 years old were killed by their partner or ex-partner, 27% were killed by an acquaintance, 7% were killed by a son or daughter and 6% were killed by a stranger.
  • Chart 9 shows that over two-thirds of all homicide cases (68%) recorded between 2010-11 and 2019-20 involved males killing males. Cases where the main accused and main victim were both female accounted for just 3% of the total number.
Chart 9: Relationship between main accused and victim by gender, Scotland, 2010-11 to 2019-20
Bar charts illustrating the relationship between victims and accused by victim and accused gender.

Main motive

Tables 11 - 14

  • The most common reasons recorded for committing homicide in the ten year period between 2010-11 and 2019-20, were fight or quarrel, and rage or fury, with 45% of all victims in solved cases killed in such circumstances. For a further 27% of victims during this ten year period the motive was unknown (Table 11).
  • In terms of the most recent year (2019-20), rage or fury and fight or quarrel accounted for 22% of all victims in solved cases. For 8% of victims in solved cases the motive was a feud or faction rivalry, this is similar to the last ten years (9%). In 60% of solved cases the motive was unknown.
  • In the period 2010-11 to 2019-20, 83% of all female victims were killed in a dwelling, compared with 55% of males. Table 12 also shows the location, relationship and motives associated with all homicides recorded over the past ten years. The most common set of circumstances associated with a male victim are a rage or fight with an acquaintance in a dwelling (accounting for 18% of male victims). The second most common set of circumstances are a rage or fight with an acquaintance not in a dwelling, accounting for a further 12% of male victims.
  • The most common set of circumstances associated with a female victim are a rage or fight with a partner or ex-partner in a dwelling (accounting for 17% of female victims). The second most common set of circumstances are an unknown motive with partner or ex-partner in a dwelling, accounting for a further 13% of female victims.
  • Thirty-one (49%) victims were reported to have been killed in drug-related homicide cases in 2019-20, of which 23 were male (Table 13). The number of drug-related homicide cases is higher over the past four years than in preceding years, though Police Scotland advise that this may be due at least in part to an improvement in recording practice (i.e. better identification of where motives can include a drug-related element). Given this, users are advised to exercise some caution when comparing this variable with years prior to 2016-17.
  • None of the homicides recorded in 2019-20 were reported to have had a racial motivation. One case had a homophobic motivation. In all homicide cases in the ten years leading up to 2019-20, 2% had a homophobic or racist motivation (Table 14).

Use of alcohol and drugs

Tables 15-18; Chart 10

  • Of the 76 persons accused in homicide cases in 2019-20, 40 (53%) were reported to have been under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both at the time of the homicide. These 40 accused break down into 26 (34% of all accused) who were under the influence of alcohol, 12 (16%) who were under the influence of alcohol and drugs and two (3%) who were under the influence of drugs alone (Table 15).
  • In 2019-20, the alcohol and drug status of the accused was unknown for 28 persons, 37% of all accused. Eight accused persons (11%) were reported to have been neither under the influence of alcohol nor drugs at the time of the homicide (Table 15).
  • In the ten year period between 2010-11 and 2019-20, around half (46%) of all accused were reported to have been under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the homicide. This is slightly higher for males (47%) than females (41%) (Table 16).
  • Chart 10 shows that over the last ten years, 22% (84) of homicides, where the accused was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or alcohol and drugs, occurred on a Saturday. Furthermore, just over half of homicides where the accused was under the influence of alcohol or alcohol and drugs (58% or 225) occurred during the weekend (i.e. Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
Chart 10: Distribution of the accused of homicide under the influence of alcohol [2] by day of the week 2010-11 to 2019-20
Bar chart illustrating that most homicide cases since 2010-11 where the accused was under the influence of alcohol occurred on a Saturday or Sunday.

Comparator statistics

Table 4; Chart 11

  • This bulletin has reported a decreasing trend in homicides over the longer term. Chart 11 shows this trend and compares it to the trend in attempted murder and serious assaults. This latter information is taken from the Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2019-20 bulletin. Over the ten year period between 2010-11 and 2019-20, the reduction in levels of homicide has broadly followed a similar fall in levels of attempted murder and serious assault. The number of homicide cases has fallen by 35% over the last ten years, compared with a 56% fall in attempted murder and a 22% fall in serious assault.
  • Similar to Scotland, England & Wales also produce National Statistics on Homicide, which is extracted from a dedicated database - the Home Office Homicide Index. The latest data published was for the 2018-19 reporting year[3].
Chart 11: Indices in selected crimes of violence, Scotland, 2010-11 to 2019-20 (Index 2010-11 = 100)
An index chart showing the trend in Homicide, Serious Assault and Attempted murder recorded by the police over the past ten years.
  • Direct comparisons between Scotland and England & Wales should be treated with some caution due to uncertainty around different counting and classification conventions.
  • Further to this, users should note that in England & Wales, as in Scotland, it is possible for homicides that occurred sometime in the past to be recorded in more recent years. For example whilst the data for 2019-20 are not yet available, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has previously highlighted that earlier figures for 2016-17 included the 96 victims of Hillsborough which occurred in 1989, representing 14% of all victims in 2016-17.
  • One area where some general comparisons can be made are the broad trends in changes over time between Scotland and England & Wales, though still allowing for the caveats outlined above.
  • In Scotland, the number of homicide cases has fallen over the longer term but have remained relatively stable in recent years, with between 59 and 64 cases recorded each year since 2012-13. The 2019-20 figures for England & Wales will be published in 2021. The latest publication for 2018-19 reported that homicide in England & Wales fell for the first time since 2014-15, which itself followed a similar long term decrease to Scotland.

Contact

Email: justice_analysts@gov.scot