Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2015-16

Statistics on crimes and offences recorded and cleared up by the police in Scotland.

This document is part of a collection

2. Background

2.1. Statistics on recorded crimes and offences inform the Scottish Government's Strategy for Justice in Scotland, and National Outcome 9 - 'we live our lives safe from crime, disorder and danger'.

2.2. These statistics are also used by a wide range of stakeholders. Further information on users and uses of the statistics is available in Annex 4 of this bulletin as well as in the User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland, available via the following link:

2.3. The 'Recorded Crime in Scotland' annual statistical bulletin forms part of a series of bulletins produced by the Scottish Government on the criminal justice system, which can be found at:

2.4. 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". The distinction is made only for statistical reporting purposes and has no impact on how the police investigate reports of criminal activity. The "seriousness" of the offence is generally related to the maximum sentence that can be imposed. This distinction has been consistently used in the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletins since publication began in 1983 and, prior to this, in the Criminal statistics publication dating back to the 1920s.

A further distinction, although not absolute, is that the numbers of offences recorded by the police generally tends to be affected more by police activity and operational decisions than the numbers of crimes.

Crimes relate to Groups 1 to 5: Offences relate to Groups 6 to 7:
  • Non-sexual crimes of violence,
  • Miscellaneous offences, and
  • Sexual crimes,
  • Motor vehicle offences.
  • Crimes of dishonesty,
  • Fire-raising, vandalism etc., and
  • Other crimes.

For further information on crime and offence groups, see Chapter 8.

2.5. In general, this statistical bulletin covers the ten year period from 2006-07 to 2015-16, the entirety of which is subject to the Scottish Crime Recording Standard ( SCRS) introduced in 2004-05. The SCRS has helped maintain a consistent approach to recording crime and is maintained and developed by the Scottish Crime Recording Board. A copy of the manual can be accessed from the Board's webpages:

2.6. Crimes are presented in this bulletin against the year in which they are recorded by the police. Not all crimes are reported to, and recorded by, the police immediately following their occurrence. As such each year's figures on police recorded crime will include a proportion of crimes committed in earlier years. The basis on which we receive the data means we are generally unable to identify crimes committed in earlier years.

2.7. The Police Service of Scotland (referred to throughout this report as Police Scotland) is responsible for operational policing in Scotland and is held to account by the Scottish Police Authority. The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 changed the policing landscape in Scotland, replacing the previous eight police forces, the Scottish Police Services Authority and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency from 1 April 2013. The statistics set out in this bulletin cover the third year following the establishment of Police Scotland.

2.8. The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) 2014-15 provides a complementary measure of crime to police recorded crime statistics. The survey provides information on the criminal justice system, people's experience of civil justice problems and people's perception of crime.

The SCJS also provides an estimate of the proportion of crimes not reported to the police. In 2014-15, it was estimated that 38% of crimes, as defined by the SCJS, were reported to the police.

The survey also provides estimates of progress for two national indicators in the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework, namely:

  • Improve people's perceptions about the crime rate in their area; and
  • Reduce crime victimisation rates.

Further information on the National Performance Framework can be accessed via the following link:

Additional coverage on the SCJS is featured in the Data Comparisons segments throughout the bulletin, located toward the end of each crime or offence group section. A more detailed analysis on the comparisons between recorded crime and the SCJS is provided in Chapter 5.

2.9. There have been no major legislative changes throughout 2015-16 which impact on the comparability of the statistics.

Past legislative changes, and changes to classifications can be found in the User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland, available at:

2.10. The UK Statistics Authority ( UKSA) published an assessment report on Recorded Crime in Scotland in July 2014. The report stated that the UKSA "cannot at present confer National Statistics status on these statistics".

As a result of this, the 2013-14 and 2014-15 statistical bulletins on Recorded Crime in Scotland were both published as Official Statistics. The UKSA assessment report pointed to improvements that could be made to ensure these statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value as set out in the Code of Practice - with the aim of eventually re-designating these statistics as National Statistics. Since the July 2014 report a range of actions have been taken forward by the Scottish Government and others to meet these requirements (with further information on this presented throughout the bulletin - including in Annex 2 on Data Quality). Following this work, the UKSA re-visited the designation of these statistics in September 2016 and concluded that the police recorded crime statistics can be designated as National Statistics, which means that they meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value. As such, the Recorded Crime in Scotland statistics are again being published as National Statistics, beginning with this 2015-16 publication.

The statistics on recorded crime clear up rates ( Chapter 4) will remain published as Official Statistics (i.e. on the same basis as in 2013-14 and 2014-15). HMICS propose to scope out an audit of clear-up data and pilot an audit methodology in 2017, with a view to providing the public and other stakeholders with assurance about the reliability of clear up rates. The UKSA will re-visit the statistical designation of this information once HMICS have carried out this audit and the Scottish Crime Recording Board has considered any implications for the quality of these data.


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