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Non-sexual violence in Scotland: report

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

This document is part of a collection


6 Other characteristics of violence in Scotland 

6.1.1 Where do violent crimes take place?

 Key Findings:

Overall Police Recorded Crime data and the SCJS suggest that most violent crimes occurred in public space. 

The SCJS finds that the respondent’s place of work was the most commonly cited location for incidents of violent crime, accounting for almost three in ten (28%) violent crimes in 2017-18.

In 2017-18, Police Recorded Crime data shows that around two-thirds of Homicide occurred in private space.  Almost three quarters of Robbery and more than two-thirds of Attempted murder & Serious assaults (70%) occurred in a public space. 

There has been no significant change in where crimes of Homicide and Attempted murder & Serious assault took place since 2008-09.

There has been a change in where crimes of Robbery take place, with a higher percentage of Robbery taking place in private in 2017-18 compared to 2008-09.

 Violence in public and private spaces

The definitions of ‘public’ and ‘private’ space vary across datasets, which means direct comparisons across these datasets are not possible. For instance, Police Recorded Crime data on Robbery categorises communal areas adjacent to private space, such as the corridor outside a flat, as public space. However, the SCJS defines ‘private space’ as including the respondent’s home, immediately outside their home (including gardens, driveways, sheds and the street) and the homes of friends and relatives. 

 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey

SCJS results show that just over three-fifths (62%) of violent crimes in 2017-18 took place in a public setting[30]. This proportion is similar to the figures for 2008-09 (67%) and 2016-17 (72%), the apparent differences are not statistically significant. The SCJS also permits analyses of more specific settings (Figure 17) and shows that the respondent’s place of work was the most commonly cited location, accounting for almost three in ten (28%) violent crimes in 2017-18. The proportion of violent incidents estimated to have taken place in or around a pub or bar in 2017-18 was 15%, which is similar to results in recent years. 

Figure 17: SCJS Proportion of violent crime incidents occuring in different locations.

Figure 17: SCJS Proportion of violent crime incidents occuring in different locations.

Base: Violent crime incidents (120); Variable: QWH1 / QWH3 / QWH5 / QWH7

Source: Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 2017-18

Police Recorded Crime

Police Recorded Crime data shows that most Robbery (73%) occurred in a public space in 2017-18, down from 88% of Robbery in 2008-09 (Table 27), while the proportion of Robbery which occurred in a private space increased from 12% to 27%. Robbery in a public space is estimated to have fallen by 56% between 2008-09 and 2017-18 (from 2,610 to 1,140), which is a statistically significant decrease. The volume of Robbery estimated to have occurred in private space significantly increased by 17% (from 360 to 420).

The location of Attempted murder & Serious assault was also split into a public or private space[31]. More than two-thirds of Attempted murder & Serious assault (70%) occurred in a public space in 2017-18, with the remaining 30% taking place in a private space. This has not changed significantly since 2008-09. Attempted murder & Serious assault in a public space is estimated to have fallen by 33% (1,440) between 2008-09 and 2017-18 (from 4,350 to 2,910). At the same time the volume of Attempted murder & Serious assault estimated to have occurred in a private space fell by 40% (850) from 2,130 to 1,280. 

Around half of Attempted murder & Serious assault (47%) occurred in the street or open space in 2017-18. Around a third (36%) occurred in a dwelling (either within a private property or the communal area of a residential building), and a night time economy, retail or other business setting accounted for the remaining 17% of Attempted murder & Serious assault in 2017-18. These proportions have not changed between 2008-09 and 2017-18.

Attempted murder & Serious assault in the street or open space is estimated to have fallen by 1,140 between 2008-09 and 2017-18 (from 3,090 to 1,950). At the same time the volume of Attempted murder & Serious assaults occurring in a dwelling is estimated to have fallen by 760 (from 2,270 to 1,510). Attempted murder & Serious assault occurring in a night time economy, retail or other business setting are estimated to have fallen by 390 (from 1,110 to 720).

In contrast to the above, Homicides were more likely to take place in private space. Most Homicide (63%) occurred in a private space in the three years ending 2017-18 (Table 28). This pattern is similar to the three years ending 2008-09 when around three-fifths of Homicides (59%) occurred took place in private space.

Table 27: Robbery by location, 2008-09 & 2017-18.

Location1 2008-09 2017-18 2008-09 to 2017-18 change
% Est. Volume % Est. Volume % Point Change Est. Volume Change
In a private space 12% 360 27% 420 ⇓ by 15%  60
In a public space 88% 2,610 73% 1,140 ⇑ by 15% -1,470
Total Robbery2,3 100% 2,963 100% 1,556 n/a -1,407

1Robberies within a person’s property (e.g. behind a front door) have been defined in the research as ‘private space’ Robbery, with all other settings (including communal areas of a residential building) defined as ‘public space’ Robbery;    2Numbers may not sum to 100% due to rounding; 3Based on a sample of crime records (501 from 2008-09 and 450 from 2017-18)

Source: Analysis of Police Recorded Crime records, 2008-09 & 2017-18

Table 28: All recorded Homicide by location, three years ending 2008-09 & 2017-18.

Homicide Location 3 years ending
2008-09
3 years ending
2017-18
2008-09 to 2017-18 change
% Volume % Volume % Point Change Volume Change
In a private space 59% 194 63% 112 ⇑ by 4%  -82
In a public space 41% 135 36% 65 ⇓ by 4% -70
Unknown <1% 2 1% 2 ⇑ by 1% No change
All recorded Homicide1,2 100% 331 100% 179 n/a -152

1 Numbers may not sum to 100% due to rounding; 2Excludes one case which occurred in a prison in 2017-18.

Source: Homicide National Statistics, 2017-18

6.1.2 Is there any regional variation in violent crime?

 Key Findings:

In 2008-09, the west of Scotland was disproportionately represented in violent crime compared to elsewhere in the country. The difference between the west and elsewhere in Scotland has reduced since then. 

Police Recorded Crime data suggests the west of Scotland accounted for around half (52%) of all Attempted murder & Serious assault in 2018-19. This is a reduction from almost two-thirds (64%) in 2008-09.

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey

The 2016-17 and 2017-18 combined SCJS data found that the overall likelihood of being a victim of violent crime for adults living in each Police Division was no different to the national average over that time-frame, with the exception of Highlands and Islands where the prevalence rate was lower.

More Police Division level SCJS results are available via an interactive tool.

Police Recorded Crime

In 2017-18, Glasgow City had the highest number of Homicide cases (11), representing 19% of the Scottish total. When taking into consideration the percentage of the population that live in this area (11% of the Scottish population in 2017-18), Glasgow City had a higher share of Homicide compared to other areas. 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 large fall in Homicides of 54% since 2008-09, accounting for over one third (34%) of the overall national decrease.

In 2008-09, nearly two-thirds (64%) of Attempted murder & Serious assaults were committed in the west of Scotland[32], compared to 36% elsewhere in the country. However, by 2018-19, around half (52%) of Attempted murder & Serious assault was committed in the west of Scotland and around half (48%) was committed elsewhere in the country.

In 2008-09, the rate of Attempted murder & Serious assaults per 10,000 population in the west of Scotland was significantly higher than elsewhere in the country, with 18.5 Attempted murder & Serious assaults per 10,000 population in the west compared to 7.9 Attempted murder & Serious assaults per 10,000 population elsewhere in the country. By 2018-19, the rate in the west of Scotland had almost halved (fallen by 48%) to 9.6 Attempted murder & Serious assaults per 10,000 population. The rate elsewhere in Scotland also fell between 2008-09 and 2018-19 but not to the same extent, falling by 18% from 7.9 Attempted murder & Serious assaults per 10,000 population in 2008-09 to 6.5 Attempted murder & Serious assaults per 10,000 population in 2018-19.

Since 2008-09, the rate of Attempted murder & Serious assault fell in every local authority in the west of Scotland (centered in and around the city of Glasgow), with the largest reductions seen in the local authorities that started with the highest rates (Glasgow City, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire).

Elsewhere in the country, reductions were seen in the majority of local authorities since 2008-09, however these reductions were generally lower than that seen in the west of Scotland.

Emergency Hospital Admissions for Assault

There has been a reduction in Hospital Admissions for Assault by 55% since 2008-09, this represents a fall of 2,904 cases (Table 29). Most of this reduction (41%) has come from a fall in Greater Glasgow and Clyde which had 1,966 admissions in 2008-09, compared to 769 in 2017-18 (a decrease of 61%). 

Table 29: Hospital Admissions due to Assault by NHS Board of Residence, 2008-09 & 2017-18.

NHS Board of Residence 2008-09 2017-18 2008-09 to 2017-18 change
% Volume2 % Volume % Point Change Volume Change
Ayrshire & Arran 10.1% 533 6.3% 151 ⇓ by 3.7% -382
Borders 1.8% 96 1.5% 35 ⇓ by 0.3% -61
Dumfries & Galloway 1.2% 63 1.5% 35 ⇑ by 0.3% -28
Fife 4.0% 211 6.6% 157 ⇑ by 2.6% -54
Forth Valley 2.3% 124 5.1% 122 ⇑ by 2.8% -2
Grampian 9.5% 504 8.7% 207 ⇑ by 0.8% -297
Greater Glasgow & Clyde 37.2% 1,966 32.3% 769 ⇓ by 4.9% -1,197
Highland 4.3% 227 2.4% 58 ⇓ by 1.9% -169
Lanarkshire 12.6% 666 14.1% 337 ⇑ by 1.5% -328
Lothian 11.3% 596 14.7% 350 ⇑ by 3.4% -246
Tayside 4.9% 260 6.2% 147 ⇑ by 1.3% -113
North and Western Isles 0.8% 40 0.3% 6 ⇑ by 0.5% -34
All hospital admissions due to assault1 100% 5,286 100% 2,382 n/a -2,904
aw not

1 Numbers may not sum to 100% due to rounding and suppression of values due to potential risk of disclosure.
] 2 Based on volume of admissions. This does not account for changes in the underlying population. 

Source: ISD Scotland: Hospital Care, Assault Statistics, 2008-9 & 2017-18

6.1.3 When do violent crimes occur? 

 Key Findings:


The SCJS and Police Recorded Crime data suggests the incidence of violent crimes per day was higher at weekends. Weekends are disproportionately represented across the SCJS, Homicide and Attempted murder & Serious assault.

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey

The 2017-18 SCJS found that, where respondents provided details about when an incident occurred, around three-fifths of violent crimes (59%) happened on a weekday, and 41% took place at weekends (defined as 6pm on Friday to Sunday midnight). However, taking into account the number of days within each category means that the incidence of violent crime per day was higher at weekends. 

The SCJS has data on the time of day that crimes occurred. Violent crimes which happened during the week were most likely to happen during the daytime[33] (58%), however violent crimes which occurred at the weekend were more likely to happen in the evening / night (80%).

Police Recorded Crime

For all Homicides between 2008-09 and 2017-18, a fifth (20%) occurred on a Saturday with a further 18% on a Sunday. Homicides therefore disproportionately occur on Saturdays and Sundays, accounting for almost two-fifths of all Homicides (39%) but only 2/7th of the week (29%).

Using the same definition as the SCJS above, research into police recorded Serious assault and Attempted murder showed that in 2017-18 the majority occurred at the weekend (59%) compared with a weekday (41%). This distribution has not significantly changed from 2008-09 when weekends accounted for 56% of such crimes and weekdays accounted for 44%.

In 2017-18, 63% of Robberies occurred on a weekday and 37% occurred at the weekend (using the same definition as above). This means that Robbery is not as likely to have taken place at the weekend using this defintion where the weekend represents 32% of the week. 

6.1.4 The use of weapons in violent crime

 Key Findings:

The SCJS and Police Recorded Crime data suggest most violence in Scotland does not involve a weapon, though where a violent incident results in a severe physical injury (Homicide, Attempted murder & Serious assault) a weapon is much more likely to have been involved.

Both the SCJS and Police Recorded Crime data suggest that over the past ten years there has been a decrease in the prevalence of weapon-carrying or weapon use to commit violent crime in Scotland. As such there has been a larger reduction in violent crime with a weapon than violent crime without a weapon.

The use of firearms as part of violent crime in Scotland constitutes a very small proportion of Police Recorded Crime. 

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey

The SCJS found that, where someone saw or heard what was happening, 12% of violent incidents were said to include the presence of a weapon in 2017-18, down from 25% in 2010-2011. A knife was reported as being present in 7% of violent crimes where someone saw or heard what was happening in 2017-18. The SCJS also found that 12% of adults thought that people carrying knives was common in their area in 2017-18, down from 22% in 2009-10.

Police Recorded Crime

Police recorded crimes of possessing, but not using, an offensive weapon in a public setting have shown large reductions since 2008-09 - falling by over half (53%, or 4,764 crimes) from 8,980 in 2008-09 to 4,216 in 2018-19 (Table 30), but increasing by around a third (36%, or 1,105 crimes) since 2015-16, when 3,111 crimes were recorded. A subset of this information, crimes of having in a public place an article with a blade or point, fell by a third (34%) since 2008-09. These crimes have also seen a rise in recent years, increasing by around two-fifths (43%) since 2014-15.

In general, Police Recorded Crime data does not tell us whether a specific crime involved a weapon. However, some specific studies[34] do tell us about the prevalence of weapons during certain types of crime. For example, 66% of Homicides, 55% of Attempted murder & Serious assault and 51% of Robbery involved the use of a weapon in 2017-18. A knife or other sharp instrument was involved in 59% of Homicides, 25% of Attempted murder & Serious assault and 35% of Robberies. The prevalence of weapons was much less frequent for Common assault (according to a 2014-15 study), with around a fifth (21%) involving a weapon and only 3% involving a knife or other bladed article.

Where a comparison can be made over time, it is clear that the reduction in crimes that typically result in more severe physical injuries, but occur in lower volumes, have been driven, in part, by fewer crimes involving the use of a weapon. For example there were an estimated 4,110 Attempted murder & Serious assaults involving a weapon in 2008-09, falling by 44% to 2,290 by 2017-18 (Table 31). At the same time the estimated number of these crimes that did not involve a weapon fell by a relatively smaller amount (down 470 crimes). While there was no significant difference in the proportion of Robberies that involved a weapon between 2008-09 and 2017-18, those that involved a knife are estimated to have fallen from 43% to 35% during this time (the equivalent of 720 fewer crimes) (Table 32). 

The most commonly used method as part of a Homicide in Scotland was with a sharp instrument, with around half (51%) of all victims killed in this way since 2008-09. Over the past ten years the number of victims of Homicide fell by over two-fifths (45% or 151 victims) from 334 for the three years ending 2008-09[35] to 183 for the three years ending 2017-18. Most of this reduction came from a fall in homicides that involved the use of a weapon[36] (down 93 victims or 44%) with the remainder coming from fewer homicides where a weapon was not involved (down 58 victims or 47%).

In addition to aforementioned crimes of possessing, but not using, an offensive weapon, information is also available from 2017-18 onwards on using a weapon in a public setting to commit another crime against a person. A study into these crimes showed that weapons were most likely to be used, in public settings, to threaten or abuse (44%), commit a Common assault (32%) or a Serious assault (14%). Where the weapon used was a bladed or pointed article the most common type of crimes commited were again Threatening or abusive behaviour (49%) followed by Serious assault (18%) and Common assault (13%). This suggests that where weapons are used, this often relates to threatening people. However, almost a fifth (16%) of crimes resulted in the victim sustaining a serious injury - and this is more likely when the weapon was a knife (22% of crimes).

The use of firearms as part of violent crime in Scotland is rare. In 2017-18, there were two fatal shootings in Scotland (3% of all Homicide victims). Otherwise, firearms were used in 4.1% of Attempted murders (ten offences), 2.2% of Robberies (34 offences) and only 0.2% of Serious assaults (eight offences).

Emergency Hospital Admissions for Assault

In addition to Police Recorded Crime, Hospital Admissions data includes annual statistics on emergency admissions to hospital due to an assault with a sharp object (see Section 4.1.2). Over the past ten years the number of Hospital Admissions due to Assault with a sharp object have fallen by over three-fifths (61%), falling by 862 from 1,415 in 2008-09 to 553 in 2017-18. This is slightly higher than for Hospital admissions for all assaults which fell by over half (55%) over the same period.

Table 30: Number of crimes of handling an offensive weapon, 2008-09 & 2018-19.

Crimes of Handling an Offensive Weapon 2008-09 2018-19 % Change
Handling an offensive weapon (Weapon not used in other criminal activity)1 8,980 4,216 ⇓ by 53%
Possession of an offensive weapon 4,892 1,483 ⇓ by 70%
Having in a public place an article with a blade or point 4,080 2,709 ⇓ by 34%
Handling an offensive weapon (Weapon used in other criminal activity) 2 - 4,680 -
Possession of an offensive weapon - 2,771 -
Having in a public place an article with a blade or point - 1,909 -
Total1 - 8,896 -

1 Includes crimes of ‘Restriction of an offensive weapon’ (8 in 2008-09 and 24 in 2018-19)
2 Crimes of Handling an offensive weapon when used in other criminal activity were only recorded from the 1st April 2017 onwards.

Source: Recorded Crime National Statistics, 2018-19

Table 31: Percentage of Attempted murder & Serious assault committed with an offensive weapon, 2008-09 & 2017-18.

Use of Weapons in Violent Crimes 2008-09 2017-18 2008-09 to 2017-18 change
% Est. Volume % Est. Volume % Point Change Est. Volume Change
All Weapons 63% 4,110 55% 2,290 ⇓ by 9% -1,820
Knife or Other Bladed / Pointed Article 31% 1,980 25% 1,030 No change -950
Total Attempted murder & Serious assault1,2 100% 6,472 100% 4,189 n/a -2,283

1Based on a sample of crime records (550 from 2008-09 and 551 from 2017-18); 2Numbers may not sum to 100% due to rounding.
Source: Analysis of Police Recorded Crime records, 2008-09 & 2017-18

Table 32: Percentage of Robberies committed with an offensive weapon, 2008-09 & 2017-18.

Use of Weapons in Violent Crimes 2008-09 2017-18 2008-09 to 2017-18 change
% Est. Volume % Est. Volume % Point Change Est. Volume Change
All Weapons 57% 1,700 51% 800 No change -900
Knife or Other Bladed / Pointed Article 43% 1,270 35% 550 ⇓ by 8% -720
Total Robbery2,3 100% 2,963 100% 1,556 n/a -1,407

1Based on a sample of crime records (501 from 2008-09 and 450 from 2017-18); 2Numbers may not sum to 100% due to rounding.
Source: Analysis of Police Recorded Crime records, 2008-09 & 2017-18

6.1.5 Alcohol and drugs and violent crime

 Key Findings:

Overall, SCJS data shows that alcohol has played a less prominent role in violent crime in recent years compared to a decade ago – although perpetrators were believed to be under the influence of alcohol in almost half of violent crime incidents, where victims were able to say something about the perpetrator. 

Just over one in three violent crimes involved perpetrators reported by victims to be under the influence of drugs. This has remained unchanged compared to 2008-09.

Within the analysis of Police Recorded Crime data, references to either perpetrator(s), victim(s) or both being under the influence of alcohol is higher than reference to drug use. This is particularly noticeable in Attempted murder & Serious assault crimes, where most made some form of reference to alcohol.

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey

The 2017-18 SCJS found that perpetrators were believed to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs in 62% of violent incidents where the victims were able to say something about the perpetrator. 

Perpetrators were believed to be under the influence of alcohol in 46% of violent incidents where victims were able to say something about the perpetrator in 2017-18[38,39]. This figure has fallen from 63% in 2008-09 but is not significantly different from the estimate in 2014-15 (56%) or 2016-17 (42%). See Figure 18 below

For wider context on the role of alcohol in violent crime, victims reported having consumed alcohol immediately before the incident in 25% of cases of all violent crime in 2017-18. Relatedly, victims reported that just over one-in-three of violent crimes (36%) involved perpetrators who were thought to be under the influence of drugs in 2017-18[39], up from 22% in 2016-17 but unchanged[40] from the 2008-09 figure (29%).

When looking at violent incidents that involved only drugs or only alcohol, there has been a change in the composition with a smaller proportion of incidents involving only alcohol (from 39% in 2008-09 to 26% in 2017-18) and more involving only drugs (from 5% in 2008-09 to 16% in 2017-18).

Figure 18: Proportion of violent crime perpetrators under the influence of alcohol (where respondent could say something about offender)

Figure 18: Proportion of violent crime perpetrators under the influence of alcohol (where respondent could say something about offender)

Base: Violent crime incidents where respondent could say something about offender (2008/09: 570; 2017/18: 120); Variable: QAL

Source: Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 2017-18

Police Recorded Crime

Of the 81 perpetrators in Homicide cases in 2017-18, 30 (37%) were reported to have been under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both at the time of the Homicide. This 37% was broken down into 15 (19%) who were under the influence of alcohol, 11 (14%) who were under the influence of both alcohol and drugs and four (5%) who were under the influence of drugs alone. However, it is important to note that in 2017-18 the alcohol and drug status of the pereptrator was unknown for 49 persons, 60% of all perpetrators. Two perpetrators (2%) were reported to have been neither under the influence of alcohol nor drugs at the time of the Homicide.

In 2017-18, 63% of Attempted murder & Serious assault crime records made some form of reference to the consumption of alcohol (either with regards to the perpetrator(s), victim(s) or both). One in ten records (10%) made any reference to the consumption of drugs.

Over the same period, almost a third (31%) of Robbery crime records made a reference to the consumption of alcohol. Around one in five records (21%) made reference to the consumption of drugs.

While, a number of Attempted murder & Serious assault and Robbery records made reference to the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs this could be in reference to the perpetrator(s), the victim(s) or both. This does not necessarily mean that it was a casual factor in all of these crimes, on the other hand there may also have been cases where alcohol or drugs may have been consumed prior to the crime taking place but no reference was made to this in the crime record.

Contact

Email: Frances.warren@gov.scot

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