Data Quality Statement
The statistics presented in this bulletin are based on a snapshot of Police Scotland's live homicide database at an agreed date. Police Scotland maintain a continuously updated list of homicide cases that the Scottish Government uses to populate its own database of homicides in Scotland.
The data provided by Police Scotland go through a series of validation checks, whereby any queries raised through this quality assurance process are fed back to Police Scotland for consideration and discussion. It should be noted that homicides are very high profile crimes, and – in many instances – discussed openly in public. Both Scottish Government statisticians and homicide specialists within Police Scotland consider it unlikely that any major errors exist (as opposed to our practice outlined below for making revisions).
Since it is a 'live' system, amendments to Police Scotland's database can arise after the data has been submitted to the Scottish Government (for example, a serious assault may be reclassified to a culpable homicide sometime after the crime was first recorded by the police).
To allow for these changes, we make retrospective revisions to earlier data for all years since the formation of Police Scotland (i.e. 2013-14 onwards). There were two such cases in 2018-19 and one case in 2014-15 – as such the total number of homicide cases published in last year's bulletin has been revised upwards from 60 to 62 for 2018-19 and from 62 to 63 for 2014-15. Earlier revisions are detailed in Homicide in Scotland, 2018-19.
As National Statistics, this information on homicide in Scotland is subject to continuous review by analysts to ensure it remains of high value for users. When producing the 2017-18 statistics, we identified that there is a tendency for the first publication of figures for a particular year to be revised upwards in subsequent bulletins - due to developments with specific cases. As outlined above, an example of this could be where a victim of serious assault dies of their injuries sometime after the incident, which could subsequently lead to the case being reclassified to a culpable homicide. Decisions at the prosecution stage can also have an impact, leading to some crimes being reclassified to homicides.
Given this, we made a small amendment to the data collection process for these statistics in 2017-18. As with earlier bulletins, we continue to present statistics based on a snapshot of Police Scotland's live homicide database as at the end of the reporting year. However in addition to this, we now carry out a further check during the month before publication – whereby any crimes recorded during previous reporting years but not reclassified to a homicide until after the current reporting year, can now be included in the first publication of that year's statistics – and not as a subsequent revision. There were no such cases in 2019-20.
This change further improves the quality of these statistics as it reduces the need for subsequent revisions to the data, though clearly they can still occur should crimes be reclassified to a homicide after the additional check has been carried out.
In addition to the above consideration of our revisions policy, we also previously discussed with Police Scotland the increase in homicide cases with a drug-related motive from 2016-17 onwards. 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.
Police Scotland Management Information
In addition to the National Statistics, Police Scotland publish management information on the number of homicides reported by the police. This is presented within their Quarterly Management Information Reports, which are available from Police Scotland's website:
These reports are produced to demonstrate Police Scotland's commitment to transparency (alongside other regular reporting activity to the Scottish Police Authority). The information within these reports is presented on a cumulative quarterly basis, with the first quarter of a reporting year containing three months of data (from April to June), the second containing six months of data (from April to September) etc. The reports are typically published within two months of the period to which they refer.
The Quarterly Management Information Reports make clear to users that the data they contain on recorded homicides is based on the administrative data available to Police Scotland at that time and not the National Statistics. The annual National Statistics published by the Scottish Government on police recorded crime are based on management information which has undergone further quality assurance work, including additional dialogue with Police Scotland, in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
Separate to the presentation of the statistics on Homicide in Scotland, the Scottish Crime Recording Board ran a consultation on how the National Statistics on Recorded Crime in Scotland. This included inviting user views on potential changes to the grouping structure used in these statistics. The consultation closed on 30th November 2019, with further breakdown available at the following link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/consultation-official-statistics-present-information-recorded-crime-related-topics/
Following the consultation, the Crime Board was due to consider responses alongside other stakeholder feedback in advance of deciding any changes to how the above statistics are presented in the future. However, this work is currently paused due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the resultant increase in demand for associated analysis (for example the recent introduction of new monthly official statistics on crimes and offences recorded by the police). Going forward, users will be kept informed of any developments relating to the consultation through the ScotStat network.
We always welcome feedback on the content of our statistical bulletins and users are welcome to submit their comments to: JusticeAnalysts@gov.scot.
If you would like to be kept informed about developments in crime statistics, we suggest registering with ScotStat: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/scotstat.
Clearly, only a limited selection of tables can be included in any statistical bulletin. Further analysis of homicides in Scotland can be supplied on request. In certain cases a fee is charged. For details of what can be provided, please contact Mark Bell on 0131 244 5459 or email JusticeAnalysts@gov.scot.
(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.
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.
Accused (Main accused)
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 returns that is submitted annually by Police Scotland is selected.
On 1 April 2013, Police Scotland changed their operational practices when reporting on the alcohol status of the accused and victim. Individuals are no longer referred to as being 'drunk' and are referred to as 'being under the influence of alcohol'.
Current and initial classification of homicide
Some cases initially classified as homicide will, on the basis of criminal proceedings, no longer be classified as such at a later date.
A homicide case is included against the year in which the crime that led to the homicide is first recorded by the police. This is not necessarily the year in which the victim dies, 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.
A single case of homicide is counted for each crime involving murder or culpable homicide (common law) irrespective of the number of victims or accused.
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 or asphyxiation, drowning, fire, poisoning and other or unknown.
Main method (poisoning)
The main method of "poisoning" includes the use of drugs, gas and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Main method (sharp instrument)
The term "sharp instrument" includes knives, broken bottles, swords, sharpened screwdrivers and any other pointed or edged weapons.
The motive behind committing a homicide is as determined by the police.
Main motive (drug-related)
A "drug-related" homicide 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, a homicide committed in order to steal proceeds of the drugs trade or a homicide as a consequence of rivalry between users and/or dealers within the drugs trade.
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.
The distinction between "solved" and "unsolved" homicide cases is where an accused individual is attached to it (solved) and where an accused individual has not been identified (unsolved).
Victim (main victim)
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.
The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:
- meet identified user needs;
- are well explained and readily accessible;
- are produced according to sound methods; and
- are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.
Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.
The Assessment Report, which was published in June 2011, can be accessed via the following link:
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: £2,400.
Details of the calculation methodology are available on the Scottish Government Crime and Justice website at: https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/costcalculation
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