Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2014-15

Official Statistics Bulletin presents statistics on crimes and offences recorded and cleared up by the police in Scotland. It forms part of the Scottish Government series of statistical bulletins on the criminal justice system. Statistics on crimes and offences recorded by the police provide a measure of the volume of criminal activity with which the police are faced.

This document is part of a collection

Annex 1: Data sources and definitions

Data collection:

6.1. 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, for each local authority, which the police have recorded and cleared up. Returns of quarterly data are submitted by Police Scotland and are used to produce a national total.

6.2. Amendments to crime and offence records will always arise after data has been submitted by Police Scotland to the Scottish Government. Some crime or offence records may, on further investigation by the police, be re-designated to not constitute a crime or offence (a process known as 'no-criming'). In other cases the original crime or offence may be re-classified, which could shift the record between different crime or offence groups (for example if a common assault was found on further investigation to be a serious assault it would switch from Group 6 Miscellaneous Offences to Group 1 Non-sexual Violent Crime).

6.3. Following the implementation of the Scottish Operational Management Information System (ScOMIS) in Police Scotland, each quarterly submission of data to the Scottish Government contains revisions back to quarter 1 of the 2013-14 reporting year, reflecting the amendments described above. An exercise was undertaken to compare the crime and offence data published for 2013-14 (which was submitted to the Scottish Government in April 2014) with what ScOMIS reported for the same period one year later (April 2015). The results of this exercise are shown in the table below.

Number & Percentage

2013-14 Reporting Year
Crime or Offence Group Submitted in April 2014 Submitted in April 2015 Difference % Difference
Total Crime and Offences 771,678 771,414 -264 0.0%
Total Crime 270,397 269,092 -1,305 -0.5%
Group 1 Non Sexual Violent Crime 6,785 6,768 -17 -0.3%
Group 2 Sexual Crime 8,604 8,747 143 1.7%
Group 3 Crimes of Dishonesty 137,324 136,475 -849 -0.6%
Group 4 Fire Raising / Vandalism etc. 54,418 54,221 -197 -0.4%
Group 5 Other Crimes 63,266 62,881 -385 -0.6%
Total Offences 501,281 502,322 1,041 0.2%
Group 6 Miscellaneous Offences 207,190 206,973 -217 -0.1%
Group 7 Motor Vehicle Offences 294,091 295,349 1,258 0.4%

This analysis confirms that the extent of further amendment to police crime and offence records following the original submission of data is minimal at the Scotland level. This can give users confidence that the published statistics for 2013-14 still provide a sufficiently accurate measure of the extent of police recorded crimes and offences. On a proportional basis the biggest impact is on Group 2 Sexual crime, where a net 143 additional crimes have been recorded following reclassification from other groups. This has increased the number of sexual crimes by 1.7% from 8,604 to 8,747.

Whilst the number of records amended following their original submission to the Scottish Government are a very small proportion of all records, it is important for Official Statistics purposes that time series comparisons between 2013-14 and 2014-15 are on a like-for-like basis. As such the 2013-14 data used in this bulletin remains that which was submitted in April 2014 and published last year, to ensure this is consistent with the timetable being followed for the submission of data for 2014-15 (i.e. the same amount of time has elapsed for amendments to records for both of the reporting years contained in this bulletin).

Nonetheless, this analysis demonstrates that a more up-to-date set of figures are available from ScOMIS for 2013-14 than included in this Official Statistics publication. Given this we will assess whether any amendment to our revisions policy should be made before the 2015-16 publication. Users will be consulted accordingly if it is thought that this would be a useful change in practice.

6.4. Information on the data source used in the Recorded Crime bulletin series and supporting metadata can be found in the Data Sources and Suitability document which is available via the following link:

6.5. The main Scottish Government Statement of Administrative Sources covers all sources of administrative data used by Scottish Government Statisticians. This statement can be found on the Scottish Government website at:

A separate statement of administrative source is available for Police statistics via the following link:

6.6. Information is collected from the British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence Police, but these figures have not been included in the main body of this bulletin. Thus, the following crimes and offences were recorded in addition to those referred to throughout this bulletin:

Table 13: Crimes and offences recorded by the British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence Police, and cleared up13, as a percentage of those recorded, Scotland, 2014-15

Number & Percentage

Crimes Crime clear up rate Offences Offence clear up rate
Total recorded by British Transport Police and Ministry of Defence Police 1,583 34.6% 4,148 55.4%

Please see Notes for Tables at end of Chapter 5.

On the 12 August 2015, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) published Crime Audit, British Transport Police, Scotland Division:

This audit looked at significantly more records than such previous audits and assessed the state, efficiency and effectiveness of the Division's crime recording and the extent to which its recording practices comply with the Scottish Crime Recording Standard and the Scottish Government's Counting Rules.

In total, 912 incidents and 522 crime records relating to allegations of theft, violence, sexual crime, hate crime, non-crime related incidents and those deemed as no-crime were examined (covering the period from 1 April 2014 to 30 September 2014). It was found that 98.8% had been closed correctly and 95.2% were counted and classified correctly.

HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, Derek Penman, said: "The results of our audit provide clear evidence that BTP's Scotland Division crime recording processes are effective, ensuring the correct application of crime recording standards and counting rules''.

Data publication in Police Scotland Quarterly Management Information Reports:

6.7. In addition to the Official Statistics, Police Scotland publish management information on the number of crimes and offences recorded by the police. This is presented within their Quarterly Management Information Reports, which are available from the 'Our Performance' section of Police Scotland's website:

These reports are produced to demonstrate Police Scotland's commitment to transparency (alongside other regular reporting activity to the Scottish Police Authority). The information within these reports is presented on a cumulative quarterly basis, with the first quarter of a reporting year containing 3 months of data (from April to June), the second containing 6 months of data (from April to September) etc. The reports are typically published within 2 months of the period to which they refer.

The Quarterly Management Information Reports make clear to users that the data they contain on recorded crime is based on the Administrative Data available to Police Scotland at that time and not the Official Statistics. The annual Official Statistics published by the Scottish Government on police recorded crime are based on management information which has undergone further quality assurance work, including additional dialogue with Police Scotland, in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

Data Definitions:

6.8. 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 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.

6.9. In Scotland, assault is a common law offence. In order to distinguish between serious and common assaults, Police Scotland use a common definition for serious assault:

"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
  • Lacerations requiring sutures which may lead to impairment or disfigurement
  • Any other injury which may lead to impairment or disfigurement."

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

6.11. Housebreaking can be broken down into different building types: Dwelling, Non-dwelling and Other property. Where 'domestic dwelling' is presented in the statistics, this refers to dwellings and non‑dwellings only. Definitions of the different types of building are as follows:

Dwelling is defined as a house which is being used or fit for residential purposes and includes:

  • Caravans used as residential home and touring caravans if used as permanent domicile.
  • Houses which are unfinished / under renovation but are capable of being secured against intrusion (e.g. lock on door) which are roofed and have windows and doors fitted are classed as dwelling houses.
  • Boarding House where the owner resides permanently on the premises.
  • Domestic garage, which is an integral part of a dwelling house (ie. there is a connecting door between house and garage).
  • Occupied bedrooms within hotel.

Non-dwelling is defined as all roofed buildings used for domestic purposes other than dwellings and includes:

  • Garages which are not an integral part of the dwelling, sheds and outhouses.
  • Domestic garages, which are not an integral part of a dwelling house.
  • Garden huts / garden sheds / allotment huts (non-commercial)
  • Outhouses

Other property is defined as all roofed buildings not used for residential or domestic purposes i.e. commercial premises and includes:

  • Portacabins - not used for storage e.g. office (portacabins used for storage and non-static caravans would be classified as a Lockfast Place)
  • Commercial / Business premises
  • Factory buildings, Schools
  • Park huts
  • Show houses (used purely for that purpose)
  • Boarding House where the owner does not reside permanently on the premises
  • Ships - unless used as full time domicile
  • Barn within a working farm

Reported crime:

6.12. These statistics do not reveal the incidence of all crime committed. Not all incidents are reported to the police. The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) 2012-13 estimated that 39% of crimes, as defined by the SCJS, were reported to the police. The reasons most commonly given by victims for not reporting to the police were that the police would not have been able to do anything (37%), that the incident was considered by them to be too trivial (36%) or that the police would not have been interested (15%).

6.13. Some crimes and 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 crimes and offences recorded.

6.14. 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.

6.15. 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 Chapter 7. Further information on crime codes can be found in the User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland, available via the following link:

Crimes and offences cleared up

6.16. 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. motor vehicle 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.

6.17. Crimes or offences recorded by the police as cleared up in one financial year, year y, may have been committed and therefore recorded in a previous year, i.e. year y‑1. This means that the number of crimes or offences cleared up are being expressed as a percentage of a different set of crimes or offences. This means that clear up rates in excess of 100% can arise in a given year.

6.18. Clear up rates are calculated as follows:

number of crimes cleared up in year y



total number of crimes recorded in year y


6.19. Clear up rates for the Motor vehicle offences group are not included in the bulletin since many of these crimes are offences for which the offender is 'caught in the act'.

6.20. As the number of crimes cleared up in a year may include crimes recorded in a previous year, this is not a perfect measure of crimes cleared up, particularly since this method can result in clear up rates of over 100%. The best method would be to take the number of crimes recorded and the subset of those which have been cleared up by the police. However due to the aggregate way in which the data is obtained, it is not possible to do this at present.

6.21. Prior to this bulletin, statistics on Clear up rates were presented on a rounded basis as they are only an approximation of the amount of crime cleared up each year (given the imperfect nature of this measure as outlined above). From this bulletin onwards Clear up rates will be presented to one-decimal place. Whilst this is still only an approximation of the amount of crime cleared up, this change will provide more clarity on how clear up rates vary over time.

6.22. Police Scotland are working on the development of a single crime recording system. When complete this could allow for more individual level crime data to be available. This opens up the possibility that clear up rates could be calculated by taking the number of crimes recorded in one year and measuring the number of those same crimes that were cleared up. Once the data is available in a format that allows this comparison, we will investigate with Police Scotland the best way to measure clear up rates and will consult with users on any possible change.


Email: Keith Paterson

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