Plans for including ethnicity in research and analysis: high level summary paper

Paper for the Cross Justice Working Group on Race Data and Evidence.


The Justice Analytical Services (JAS) Research and Analysis Forum is a new group, which first met in September 2021. Its goal is to bring together key stakeholders in the crime and justice research community, from Public Sector Justice Organisations. Its purpose is to allow members to communicate with one another about ongoing / future analysis projects, to increase awareness, avoid research duplications and potentially enable research collaborations.

Engagement process

At their first meeting, members spoke about their research and analysis projects. This information was collated and written up by JAS. Members were then emailed to ask for information about any plans to capture information on ethnicity or race in their current/planned work, so that this information could be shared with the Cross Justice Working Group on Race Data and Evidence.  

To fit with the timings of the next Cross Justice Working Group meeting, forum members were given a relatively short timescale of a week and a half to provide this information.

A summary of their responses is presented below. 


The following organisations provided information around ethnicity within their research and analysis projects: 

  • Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB)
  • Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) 
  • Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA)
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) 
  • Risk Management Authority (RMA)
  • HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) 

Overall summary of responses:

Some organisations include ethnicity in some of the projects they mentioned (SLAB, VRU and SCRA).

Reasons for not including ethnicity data included:

  • small sample sizes
  • concerns around anonymity and potentially identifying people
  • data quality
  • data being provided by another organisation (and not having control over the quality or completeness of the information) 
  • ethnicity data not being captured at the source / incomplete coverage

Where ethnicity information is collected, this tends to be based on either

SG harmonised ethnicity questions (VRU), or

Scottish Census classifications (SLAB, SCRA)

Recent developments/future plans around including ethnicity data included:

  • considering if and how ethnicity could be included in future projects  (VRU, SCRA, RMA, HMIPS)
  • potential impacts of a new case management systems– to set equality outcomes (SLAB), potential that ethnicity data can be reported in future annual official statistics (SCRA)
  • updating data collection to include equality monitoring questions in line with census questions (SLAB)
  • participating in a data linkage project (SLAB)/data matching pilot (COPFS) 

Summary of responses from each organisation 

Summary of Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) response:

  • ethnicity included in survey work and Equality Outcomes work. Whilst not specifically asked about in qualitative work, if a person’s ethnicity affected their ability to access services, it is anticipated that that would come out in the findings
  • surveys use Scottish Census classifications to ask about ethnicity 
  • developments around ethnicity data include:

o    involvement in Administrate Data Research Project, to link and enhance data in a secure manner, including protected characteristic data, this means SLAB are able to verify/validate/improve that data they hold, e.g. ethnicity data
o    updating how they gather legal aid applicant data, updating data monitoring questions in line with the Scotland Census and include capture of applicant communication support needs.
o    new case management system for civil legal assistance offices, public defence solicitors offices and solicitor contact line service. Improved data capture will help them set equality indicators, and use data to inform business planning

Summary of Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) response:

  • ethnicity data captured in some, but not all projects mentioned
  • reasons for not including ethnicity are: small sample size, including in qualitative work, and gathering minimal demographic information in order to reinforce anonymity of a survey
  • projects where ethnicity are included are: looking at ethnicity as a moderating factor in what works in reducing violent re-offending, and capturing data using SG harmonised questions on ethnicity as part of a project looking at hate motivated crimes from the perspective of the perpetrators
  • in future: would consider including ethnicity in Wallacetown Community Survey, if there was space to do so and support from those commissioning the survey 

Summary of Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) response:

  • children’s ethnicity collected in most of the research mentioned. Also conducted previous research specifically looking at ethnic minority communities’ understanding and awareness of child protection and the Children’s Hearings System in Scotland
  • reasons for not including ethnicity are: small sample size
  • they also note that SCRA records the ethnicity of children where it is available (using Scottish Census Classifications). However historically, this has not been published as part of their annual official statistics, due to the quality of the data
  • in future, due to the implementation of a new case management system in 2020 and an increased focus on recording this data accurately, they will revisit whether to include ethnicity in their 2021/22 statistics. Research is being scoped out to explore the impact of pandemic on Children’s Hearings and the families involved in them, and it hasn’t yet been decided if ethnicity will be included

Summary of Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) response:

  • ethnicity is not included.  Reasons for this include: the data is not gathered by COPFS, but by the reporting agency (often the Police) COPFS do no use this data internally and therefore do not quality check it. Ethnicity data is not included in all cases, so coverage is incomplete.
  • in future: COPFS have provided data on accused persons, including ethnicity, to Justice Analytical Services (JAS) colleagues as a pilot project, to see if it can be matched to the Criminal Proceedings database and then whether it can be used to provide useable figures for prosecutions and convictions broken down by ethnicity

Summary of Risk Management Authority (RMA) response:

  • ethnicity not included in their primary research
  • reasons for not including ethnicity include: small sample size, ethnicity not always included in data source, and concerns around potentially identifying individuals
  • in their literature and service provision reviews, ethnicity might be included, but this depends on whether ethnicity has been considered in the articles and services which are included in the reviews
  • in future: studies on the Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR) are more likely to collect ethnicity data (e.g. when looking at risk management during the sentence where being responsive to things like culture become more relevant). Another example might be if they looked at formulation within risk assessment where consideration of culture is very relevant

Summary of HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland response:

  • no information on ethnicity or race captured for most of their projects listed
  • in their full prison Inspections, they report on the support for foreign nationals/vulnerable populations and people with protected characteristics – but don’t give the numerical detail.
  • in future they would consider including numerical details on people with protected characteristics in their full prison Inspections. They would also consider capturing ethnicity and race in their Joint scrutiny of prevention and early prevention
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