Non-sexual violence in Scotland: report

Findings on the most up to date, complementary statistics on non-sexual violence in Scotland.

1 Introduction

1.1 Rationale 

The World Health Organisation (WHO)[1] defines a public health approach to reducing violence as one that:

‘Seeks to improve the health and safety of all individuals by addressing underlying risk factors that increase the likelihood that an individual will become a victim or a perpetrator of violence. By definition, public health aims to provide the maximum benefit for the largest number of people. Programmes for primary prevention of violence based on the public health approach are designed to expose a broad segment of a population to prevention measures and to reduce and prevent violence at a population-level.’

The public health methodology provides a scientific model with which to tackle violence, consisting of four steps, which is summarised in Figure 1 on the next page.

The purpose of this report is to address Step 1 of the public health approach to reducing violence - To define the problem through the systematic collection of information about the magnitude, scope, characteristics and consequences of violence. This has been approached by collating the most up to date, robust statistical sources on violence in Scotland. While this report does not consider the consequences of violence, it does present findings on the magnitude, scope and characteristics, thereby helping to answer the question ‘What is the Problem?’.

Where data are available, this report also includes comparisons with the profile of violence in Scotland 10 years ago, in 2008-09, compared to 2017-18 to illustrate the ways in which this has changed. 

1.2 What is ‘violent crime’?

In the context of this report, ‘Non-sexual violence’ (henceforth referred to as ‘violent crime’ for brevity) is a general term that encompasses a wide range of offences, from attempted assault and minor assault with or without injury (not all violent crimes result in physical contact between perpetrator and victim), as well as Serious assault, Robbery and Homicide[2]. In Scotland most people do not experience violent crime and the majority of violence in 2017-18 was Common assault that resulted in no or negligible injury. 

Figure 1: The steps of the public health

Figure 1: The steps of the public health

This report does not consider sexual offences (such as Rape, Sexual assault). Further information on other forms of violence such as sexual violence is available in a number of publications available on the Justice Analytical Services website and can be found here:

1.3 How is violent crime measured?

It is challenging to measure the full extent of violence in Scotland – there are various definitions of violence, the data sources measure different types of violence, and each data source has its own strengths and limitations. See Annex 2 for more detail on the data sources used to measure violent crime in this report. 

To overcome some of the limitations, here four key sources are used to measure non-sexual violent crime: 

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS):

The SCJS is a face-to-face victimisation survey, where individuals aged 16 and over living in private households in Scotland are asked about their experiences and perceptions of crime over the last 12 months. It is important to note that victims of Partner abuse may not report such experiences through the face-to-face element of the SCJS which produces the main survey prevalence rates – including on violence. As such, questions on experiences of Partner abuse (covering both physical and psychological abuse) and other topics of a more sensitive nature, e.g drug use, are answered in a self-completion element of the survey.

The survey provides a broad account of national trends in crimes experienced by individuals, which may not have been previously reported to the police. As it is based on a sample of the population, figures reported here are estimates. 

A range of offences are captured in this survey, however some crimes, such as Homicide or those against a business or individual not living in a private household in Scotland are not covered. 

Police Recorded Crime Data: 

Data supplied from across Police Scotland captures a broad range of non-sexual violent crime. Separate data are also provided by Police Scotland on Homicide, detailing specific aspects of criminal behaviour. 

These data are particularly useful when examining patterns of low-volume crimes that are hard to access through victimisation surveys, e.g. Homicide, and offences against those not living in private households. However, it can only cover crimes that have been reported to, and recorded by, the police, as such these offences will have met a legal threshold. 

Further analysis has been carried out on a sample of police crime records for Robbery, Handling offensive weapons, Attempted murder & Serious assault. This analysis is based on a sample of crime records, and so stated figures are estimates of the number of incidents. See Annex 2 for a full list of the publications used.

Emergency Hospital Admissions for Assault Data (hereafter refered to as Hospital Admissions): 

NHS Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland provides data on Hospital Admissions for assault. These data provide details of the number of emergency admissions to hospital when an injury has occurred through violence, as identified through the use of specific admissions codes. 

These data are unaffected by police recording practices, and can capture incidents that may not have been reported to the police. While considered robust, these data only provide information on those admitted to hospital under emergency admissions codes. Therefore those incidents treated in outpatient settings, or where the invidiual was not admitted, are not captured.

Scottish Government Criminal Proceedings Data (hereafter refered to as Criminal Proceedings): 

This is Scottish Government data that provides details of offences dealt with by courts, sentencing outcomes and characteristics of convicted offenders. It also includes additional information on non-court penalties issued by the Police and Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service. Bespoke analysis on the changing age and gender profiles of violent offenders using Criminal Proceedings data has also been drawn upon. Overall, Criminal Proceedings data gives information on more minor offences, but is limited to those crimes where legal proceedings occurred. 

Each chapter in the report draws upon the key relevant and available data sources to the topic explored. These data sources are clearly identified within each chapter.

In addition to the four key sources above, a case study from NHS Lothian Assault Injury Surveillance programme has been included in Annex 1. These data are not National Statistics and so have not been integrated throughout the report. However, including this case study highlights a potential additional source of data at a local level. Assault Injury Surviellance data offers a harm-based measure of violence (much of which may be unreported to the police) and allows further triangulation of patterns observed in national data sources. 

1.4 Structure of the Report

Section 2 of the report presents a brief overview of what has happened to violent crime in Scotland over the last ten years. Section 3 considers what non-sexual violence looks like in Scotland today, by considering the current profile (magnitude, scope and characteristics) of violence in Scotland. This is done by considering a number of key questions about non-sexual violence in Scotland by drawing together the key findings from across the report. 

Section 4 of the report looks in detail at victims of violent crime – the characteristics of people who experience violent victimisation and the severity and extent of the violence. Section 5 explores what it known about perpetrators of violent crime in Scotland. Section 6 discusses other characteristics of violence in Scotland, such as when and where it occurs, alcohol, drugs and weapons. Section 7 then examines what is known about unreported violence in Scotland and Section 8 presents conclusions. Annex 1 includes a case study of Lothian Assault Injury Surveillance and Annex 2 contains additional information on Methodology. 



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