Publication - Statistics

Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2011-12

Published: 26 Jun 2012
Part of:

Recorded Crime in Scotland for 2011-12

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50 page PDF

485.1 kB

Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2011-12
7. Notes on statistics used in this bulletin

50 page PDF

485.1 kB

7. Notes on statistics used in this bulletin


7.1 The statistical return from which most of the figures in this bulletin are taken is a simple count of the numbers of crimes and offences recorded and cleared up by the police. Only returns from the eight Scottish home forces are included in this bulletin. One return is made for each council in Scotland and these are aggregated to give a national total. Amendments (such as the deletion of incidents found on investigation not to be criminal) which arise after the end of the financial year are not generally incorporated.

7.2 In 1993 information was collected for the first time from other police forces, such as the British Transport Police. This practice has been continued, but these figures have not been included in the main body of this bulletin. Thus, in addition to those crimes and offences referred to throughout this bulletin there were in total, 1,891 crimes and 3,252 offences recorded by the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary in 2011-12. The crime clear-up rate was 30% and the offences clear-up rate was 45%.

7.3 The figures included in the Motor vehicle offences group do not include stationary motor vehicle offences dealt with by the issue of a fixed penalty ticket. However, offences dealt with under the vehicle defect rectification scheme and offences for which the procurator fiscal offers a fixed penalty are included in the figures. In addition to this, moving traffic offences which are the subject of a police conditional offer of a fixed penalty are also included, e.g. speeding, traffic directions offences.

7.4 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: £2,300.

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

Recording issues

7.5 In one criminal incident, several crimes or offences may occur - e.g. a house may be broken into and vandalised and the occupants assaulted. In this example, crimes of housebreaking (which would include the vandalism) and assaults would be recorded. In multiple offence incidents more than one offence may be counted rather than one for the incident as a whole; that is, the counting system is offence based rather than incident based. An offence may have more than one victim - for example in robberies - and be committed by more than one offender - e.g. some assaults and housebreakings (note that for murder, attempted murder and culpable homicide, the number of crimes recorded is equal to the number of the victims). Thus the statistics in this bulletin are not directly comparable with statistics on action taken against offenders, as one offence may lead to several persons being charged. Equally, an offender may be charged with several offences. The statistics for recorded number of crimes given in this bulletin are also not directly comparable with statistics collected in England and Wales for the recorded number of notifiable offences. This is mainly due to differences in the counting rules; for notifiable offences the counting system is, wherever possible victim based rather than offence based. The Home Office introduced new counting rules for notifiable offences and expanded their coverage on 1 April 1998.

7.6 In Scotland, assault is a common law offence. In order to distinguish between serious and common assaults, police forces use a common definition of what a serious assault is.

"An assault or attack in which the victim sustains 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 (the breaking or cracking of a bone. Note - nose is cartilage not bone, so a 'broken nose' should not be classified unless it meets one of the other criteria)
  • Internal injuries
  • Severe concussion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Lacerations requiring sutures which may lead to impairment or disfigurement
  • Any other injury which may lead to impairment or disfigurement."

Please note that 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.

7.7 Attempts to commit an offence are included in the statistics, in general in the same group as the substantive offence.

Reporting practices

7.8 These statistics do not of course reveal the incidence of all crime committed. Not all incidents are reported to the police. The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) 2010-11 estimated that 39% of crimes, as defined by the SCJS, were reported to the police. The two reasons most commonly given by victims for not reporting to the police were that the incident was considered by them to be too trivial (40%) or the police would not have been able to do anything (29%).

7.9 Many offences, for example, speeding or possession of drugs, have no victim other than perhaps the perpetrator and are discovered and recorded as a result of police activity rather than by being reported to the police by the public. Hence, the strength and deployment of the police forces mainly determine the numbers of such offences recorded.

Crimes and offences cleared up

7.10 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.

For some types of crime or offence the case is cleared up immediately because the offender is "caught in the act", e.g. motoring offences. In Scots law, the confession of an accused person to a crime would not in general be sufficient to allow a prosecution to be taken, as corroborative evidence is required. Thus, a case cannot be regarded as "cleared up" on the basis of a confession alone. In some cases there is sufficient evidence but a prosecution cannot be brought, for example, because the accused has left the country. In such cases, the offender is said to have been traced and the crime is regarded as cleared up. The other terms in the definition describe the various actions that must be taken by the police against offenders.

7.11 Certain motor vehicle offences are not always recorded in cases where police forces are unable to clear-up the offence (e.g. speeding offences where the driver is untraceable). Clear-up rates for motor vehicle offences in these circumstances are artificial. Thus, clear-up rates for the Motor vehicle offences group are not included in the bulletin.

7.12 Clear-up rates in excess of 100% can arise where offences recorded in one year are cleared up during the following year.


7.13 Contraventions of Scottish criminal law are divided for statistical purposes into crimes and offences. "Crime" is generally used for the more serious criminal acts; the less serious 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.

7.14 The detailed classification of crimes and offences used by The Scottish Government to collect criminal statistics contains about 475 codes. These are grouped in the bulletin as shown in Section 8.

7.15 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. In turn the crime codes Minor assault and Minor assault of an emergency worker have similarly been renamed. The crime category Drunk driving has been renamed Driving under the influence to reflect the fact that this category includes driving while under the influence of drugs as well as drink driving.

The crime category Serious assault etc. has been split into two new categories: Homicide and Attempted murder and serious assault. The crime category Prostitution has been replaced by a new category called Offences associated with prostitution. This includes the crimes in the old Prostitution category as well as the following crimes that were previously included in Other sexual offences: Soliciting services of person engaged in prostitution, Brothel keeping, Immoral traffic, Procuration.

The crime category Breach of the peace had 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 (Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012). Threatening or abusive behaviour and the Offence of stalking were classified in the Other miscellaneous offences category in 2010-11. Offensive behaviour at football and Threatening communications (Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012) are new offences introduced on 1 March 2012 when the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012 was implemented.

Overall totals of Crimes and Offences for 2009-10 and 2010-11 have been affected by changes to the categories of Other sexual offences and Other miscellaneous offences. From 2011-12 onwards, the offence of Taking, distribution, possession etc. of indecent photos of children has been reclassified as a Sexual offence. This may result in some minor deviations from the figures reported in police forces' annual reports.

In April 2011 offences of Handling an offensive weapon and Drug crimes in prisons were reclassified from Other miscellaneous offences to offences of Handling an offensive weapon and Drug crimes respectively. For 2011-12 it will not be possible to disaggregate either the offences of Handling an offensive weapon or Drug crimes that took place in prison. From April 2012 this disaggregation will be possible.

7.16 Clearly, only a limited selection of tables can be included in any statistical bulletin. Further analysis of recorded crime statistics can be supplied on request. This includes available information relating to time periods other than those covered in the bulletin. In certain cases a fee is charged. For details of what can be provided, please telephone Neil Henderson on 0131 244 2635 or e-mail

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

- = The relevant legislation for this category was implemented in 2007-08.
~ = The relevant legislation for this category was implemented in 2010-11.
* = Crimes within this category were not separately identifiable before 2009-10.

UK Statistics Authority - Assessment Report

7.18 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 2009, can be accessed via the following link:


Email: Neil Henderson