Homicide in Scotland 2020-2021: statistics

Statistical bulletin on crimes of homicide recorded by the police in Scotland in 2020-2021.

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Annex - Glossary


(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.

Accused (Co-accused)

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.

Alcohol status

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.

Homicide case

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.

Main method

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.

Main motive

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 or by 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.

Solved cases

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.

Statistics Designation

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://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20150218200729/http:/www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/costcalculationstat


Email: Justice_Analysts@gov.scot

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