Racist Incidents Recorded by the Police in Scotland, 2011-12

Racist Incidents Recorded by the Police in Scotland, 2011-12

4. Notes on the Statistics used in this bulletin

4.1 Background

In response to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry in 1999, the then Scottish Executive produced an action plan to progress the recommendations set out in the MacPherson report, which included the setting up of a statistical collection covering racist incidents.

The definition of a racist incident as given by Sir William MacPherson in his report on the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry is:

"A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person."

In the context of the data for this bulletin, the above definition was used.

4.2 Returns

The returns from which figures in this bulletin are taken are a simple count of the number of incidents recorded by the police and the crimes, victims and perpetrators arising from these incidents. Only returns from the eight Scottish police forces are included in this bulletin.

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 was: £3,700.

Details of the calculation methodology are available on the Scottish Government Crime and Justice website at:


4.3 Recording issues

In an incident, one or more victims may be involved, and there may be one or more perpetrators. There may be no criminal element, or several crimes may be recorded by the police.

In Scotland, assault is a common law offence. In order to distinguish between serious and common assault, police forces use a standard definition of what constitutes a serious assault. Definitions are listed in note 4.6.

In previous years, there has been an inconsistency in the number of crimes recorded by the eight Scottish police forces. Some forces were reporting only the racially aggravated crimes associated with the racist incident and others have reported all crimes associated with the racist incident, including those with no racial aggravation, for example motoring offences. As a result, there may be have been an over count in the number of crimes recorded as part of a racist incident. Police forces have been reviewing how they return this data to us and as a result, data is becoming more consistent.

Due to recording issues, Lothian & Borders police force was unable to provide data for 2009-10 to 2011-12 on: who first reported the incident; any agency to whom the incident was first reported; the main language of the victim and perpetrator; and the action taken against the perpetrator.

Due to changes in recording practices by Lothian & Borders police force, the classification used to describe the location of an incident resulted in an increase in the number of incidents being recorded at 'sporting venues' and 'other businesses' in 2008-09. This corresponded to a decrease in the number of incidents recorded at locations classified as 'shops'. Lothian & Borders police force was unable to provide information on the location of an incident in the 2009-10 data submission, and these have been classified as 'unknown'. However, the problem was rectified in time for the provision of 2010-11 data.

During preparation of this current statistical bulletin, it was noticed that the numbers of previous incidents that victims had reported to the police has being counted incorrectly. The data collection template includes two questions on repeat incidents; Whether the victim claims to have been a victim of previous incidents ('Yes' or 'No') and the number of previous incidents reported to the police. Tables had previously been produced based on the number of repeat incidents, without taking account of the Yes/No question and as a result, where the victim states 'No' for the first question, and the number of repeats had left blank, these were coded as 'unknown', when they should have been included in 'none – first report'. As a result, there has been a slight revision to the numbers in 'non-first report' and 'unknown'.

4.4 Reporting Practice

These statistics do not record all occurrences of racist incidents in Scotland. Not all incidents are reported to the police. The 2010-11 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey estimated that approximately 39% of all crimes came to the attention of the police.

4.5 Crimes and offences cleared up

The definition of "cleared up" is noted below. This definition came into force with effect from 1 April 1996.

A crime or offence is regarded as cleared up where there exists a sufficiency of evidence under Scots law, to justify consideration of criminal proceedings notwithstanding that a report is not submitted to the Procurator Fiscal because either

(i) by standing agreement with the Procurator Fiscal, the police warn the accused due to the minor nature of the offence, or

(ii) reporting is inappropriate due to the non-age of the accused, death of the accused or other similar circumstances.

4.6 Definitions

Incident - an incident is any communication by whatever means about a matter which comes to the police attention which they may be required to act upon.

Crime - an act committed in violation of the law (common law or statute). Any single incident may include a number of crimes, or there might be no criminal element. See section 5.

Victim – the individual who perceived the incident to be racist. In any incident, there could be one or more victims, and in some cases, no victim (e.g. graffiti reported to the police but no specific victim targeted).

Perpetrator – the person who was deemed responsible for the incident. In any incident, there could be one or more perpetrators.

Racially-aggravated - the offender asserts towards the person affected, malice and ill-will based on that person's membership (or presumed membership) of a racial group; or the course of conduct or action is motivated (wholly or partly) by malice and ill-will towards members of a racial group based on their membership of that group.

Racially-aggravated harassment - a racially-aggravated course of conduct, amounting to harassment.

Racially-aggravated conduct - to act in a manner, including speech, which is racially aggravated and which causes, or is intended to cause, a person alarm or distress.

Serious assault - A serious assault is an assault or attack in which the victim sustains an injury resulting in detention in hospital as an inpatient for the treatment of that injury, or any of the following injuries, whether or not detained in hospital; fractures (mean the breaking or cracking of a bone), internal injuries, severe concussion, lacerations requiring sutures which may lead to impairment or disfigurement, Any other injury which may lead to impairment or disfigurement.

Please note that nose is cartilage, not bone, so a 'broken nose' should not be classified as a serious assault unless it meets one of the other criteria.

Slight changes to the definition of serious assault were made in April 2011. Loss of consciousness is no longer included in the definition of what constitutes a serious assault.

Ethnicity – 2009-10 was the first year in which forces were asked to use the new classification of 21 groups (listed below) to record the ethnic group of victim and perpetrator. An individual is asked to 'self declare' their ethnic origin. Due to differences in recording systems used, not all police forces have been able to provide data using the new classification codes. For these areas, data was provided on the basis of the 13 group classification instead.

In order to compare ethnic classifications over the time period covered by the bulletin, the new ethnicity classifications have been aggregated to match the previous classification of 13 groups. This aggregation is detailed below.

In Table 8, changes in the figures of the ethnic origin of victims, from 2008-09 to 2011-12, may in part be due to the changes implemented in classification codes. Therefore, trend data within these ethnic classification groups should be treated with caution. This is less of a problem for Table 12, as the groups have been aggregated to avoid the reporting of small numbers which could result in self identification of individuals.

Ethnic Groups collected:

Group Number Ethnic group Group Number Mapped to
1 Scottish White 1 White British
2 English White 1 White British
3 Welsh White 1 White British
4 Northern Irish White 1 White British
5 British White 1 White British
6 Irish White 2 White Irish
7 Gypsy/Traveller White 3 Other White background
8 Polish White 3 Other White background
9 Other White 3 Other White background
10 Mixed or multiple ethnic groups 4 Mixed
11 Pakistani, Pakistani Scottish or Pakistani British 6 Pakistani
12 Indian, Indian Scottish or Indian British 5 Indian
13 Bangladeshi, Bangladeshi Scottish or Bangladeshi British 7 Bangladeshi
14 Chinese, Chinese Scottish or Chinese British 12 Chinese
15 Other Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British 8 Other Asian background
16 African, African Scottish or African British 10 African
17 Caribbean, Caribbean Scottish or Caribbean British 9 Caribbean
18 Black, Black Scottish or Black British 11 Other Black Background
19 Other African, Caribbean or Black – please state 11 Other Black Background
20 Arab 13 Other
21 Other 13 Other

4.7 Total Incidents, Crimes, Victims and Perpetrators

Table 16 shows the total number of incidents, crimes, victims and perpetrators recorded by the police. Note that crimes, victims and perpetrators can have multiple entries per incident as well as multiple entries with one another (i.e. one crime may have several victims/perpetrators).

Table 16 Total incidents, crimes, victims and perpetrators, by financial year, 2004-05 to 2011-12

  2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Incidents 4,519 5,112 5,322 5,247 5,145 4,960 4,911 5,389
Crimes 5,734 6,444 6,654 6,676 6,617 6,470 6,173 6,472
Victims 5,059 5,820 5,963 5,790 5,995 5,783 5,906 6,311
Perpetrators 3,321 4,100 5,082 5,013 5,447 5,504 5,562 5,281

4.8 Classification

Contraventions of Scottish criminal law are divided for statistical purposes into crimes and offences. The term "crime" is generally used for the more serious criminal acts; the less serious are termed "offences", although the term "offence" may also be used in relation to serious breaches of criminal law. The distinction is made only for working purposes and the "seriousness" of the offence is generally related to the maximum sentence that can be imposed.

The detailed classification of crimes and offences used by The Scottish Government to collect criminal statistics contains approximately 475 crime codes. These are grouped in the bulletin as shown in note 5.

For 2011-12 there have been a number of changes to the standard breakdowns included in the bulletin tables. Group 2 offences, previously called Crimes of Indecency, are now referred to as Sexual offences. The crime category Minor assault has been renamed Common Assault.

The offence category 'Breach of the peace' has been changed to 'Breach of the peace etc'. The category has been renamed as it now includes the following offences in addition to breach of the peace: Threatening or abusive behaviour, Offence of stalking, Offensive behaviour at football and Threatening communications.

Threatening or abusive behaviour and Stalking were introduced in late 2010 when the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 was implemented. In the 2010-11 statistical bulletin, these offences were included in the 'other offences' category.

Offensive behaviour at football and Threatening communication were introduced when the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012 was implemented on 1 March 2012.

4.9 Scottish Crime Recording Standard

It was expected that the number of crimes would have been affected by the implementation (from 1 April 2004) of the Scottish Crime Recording Standard (SCRS), which means that no corroborative evidence is required initially to record a crime related incident as a crime if so perceived by the victim. This was expected to increase the number of minor crimes recorded by the police, such as minor crimes of vandalism, minor assaults and breach of the peace.

Previously, where there were crimes which the victim did not wish the police to actively investigate (for instance, if they were concerned that this could lead to more trouble), the crime itself would not have been recorded. Therefore the SCRS is thought to have caused an increase in the number of crimes recorded where there is no real possibility of clearing up the crime, which has an impact on the clear up rates.

4.10 Census figures for Scottish Population 2001

The following table gives the most recent Census figures for the ethnicity of the population of Scotland.

Scottish Population by Ethnic Group, 2001

Ethnic group Percentage of
Total Population
Percentage of
Minority Ethnic
White British 95.5 n/a 4,832,756
Other White 1.5 n/a 78,150
White Irish 1.0 n/a 49,428
Pakistani 0.6 31.3 31,793
Chinese 0.3 16.0 16,310
Indian 0.3 14.8 15,037
Any Mixed Background 0.3 12.6 12,764
Other Ethnic Group 0.2 9.4 9,571
Other South Asian 0.1 6.1 6,196
African 0.1 5.0 5,118
Bangladeshi 0.0 1.9 1,981
Caribbean 0.0 1.7 1,778
Black Scottish or other Black 0.0 1.1 1,129
All Minority Ethnic Population 2.0 100 101,677
All Population 100 n/a 5,062,011

Source: Scottish Executive, Analysis of Ethnicity in the 2001 Census

Updated information on Ethnic group from the 2011 census is to be included in the second release statistics from Summer 2013. Further information can be found in: Scotland's Census 2011 - Outputs Prospectus Scotland.

4.11 Other

The following symbols are used throughout the tables in this bulletin:

- = Nil
* = <0.5
n/a = Not applicable


Email: Jan Young

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