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

Group 1 - Non-sexual Crimes of Violence

Info Graphic

Number of Non-sexual crimes of violence recorded in 2015-16:

Non-sexual crimes of violence account for 3% of all crimes recorded in Scotland in 2015-16. Between 2014-15 and 2015-16, the number of Non-sexual crimes of violence recorded by the police in Scotland increased by 7%, from 6,357 to 6,775.

Chart 6 below shows the number of Non-sexual crimes of violence from 1971 onwards. Levels of violent crime increased for a long period, before entering a downward trend in 2002-03, having decreased by 58% since that time. These crimes are at their second lowest level since 1974.

Chart 6: Non-sexual crimes of violence recorded by the police, 1971 1 to 1994 then 1995‑96 to 2015-16 ( Table 10 )

Chart 6: Non-sexual crimes of violence recorded by the police, 19711 to 1994 then 1995‑96 to 2015-16

1. Crimes recorded for the present crime groups are not available prior to 1971.

In 2015-16, the national rate of recorded Non-sexual crimes of violence increased to 13 crimes per 10,000 population, compared to 12 per 10,000 population for 2014-15. This varied by local authority area in 2015-16, with the highest rate in Glasgow City (25 per 10,000 population), and the lowest in Na h-Eileanan Siar (3 per 10,000 population) ( Table 13).

Chart 7 shows the four categories within Non-sexual crimes of violence over the last ten years, and gives an indication of the trend and scale of each category. In 2015-16, the volume of recorded crimes of Attempted murder and serious assault increased relative to the other categories in this group, and now makes up almost 60% of all Non-sexual crimes of violence. The proportions of all categories across the group had remained fairly steady in earlier years. Homicide etc. continues to contribute a very small proportion to the total.

Chart 7: Non-sexual crimes of violence in Scotland, 2006-07 to 2015-16

Chart 7: Non-sexual crimes of violence in Scotland, 2006-07 to 2015-16

Attempted murder & serious assault:

Attempted murder & serious assault is the largest category in Group 1, accounting for almost 60% of all Non-sexual crimes of violence. Over the ten year period from 2006-07 to 2015-16, this category has seen a large decrease of 45%, despite having increased by 27% from 3,166 in 2014-15 to 4,007 in 2015-16.

All but four local authorities recorded a decrease in this category over the ten year period.

For the definition of Serious assault and the distinction between Serious assault and Common assault please see Paragraph 7.13 within Annex 1.


Robbery accounted for around one fifth of Non-sexual crimes of violence. Over the ten year period from 2006-07 to 2015-16, this crime has seen a large decrease of 63%, including an 11% decrease from 1,497 in 2014-15 to 1,327 in 2015-16.

All but two local authority areas recorded a decrease in this category over the ten year period. Of those that increased, changes were based on small numbers.

Homicide etc.:

As well as Murder and Culpable homicide (common law), the Homicide etc. category included in this bulletin contains the crimes of:

  • Causing death by dangerous driving;
  • Causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs;
  • Causing death by careless driving;
  • Illegal driver involved in fatal accident; and
  • Corporate homicide.

Homicide etc. accounted for 1% of Non-sexual crimes of violence. Over the ten year period from 2006-07 to 2015-16, this category has been on a generally downward trend, with a 49% decrease between 2006-07 and 2015-16. During the latest year, it decreased by 23% from 105 in 2014-15 to 81 in 2015-16.

Other violence:

The Other violence category includes crimes such as Cruel and unnatural treatment of children, Threats and extortion, and Abduction, which together account for more than 90% of the crimes within this category. More detail is provided in Chapter 8.

Crimes recorded as Other violence account for 20% of Non-sexual crimes of violence. These crimes are at the lowest level since 1986. Over the ten year period from 2006-07 to 2015-16, this category has seen a large decrease of 55%, including a 14% decrease from 1,589 in 2014-15 to 1,360 in 2015-16. The decrease from the previous year was driven by a reduction in the volume of crimes of Cruel and unnatural treatment of children. Over the ten year period, all but three local authorities recorded a decrease in this category.


As noted above, non-sexual crimes of violence increased by 7% between 2014-15 and 2015-16, from 6,357 to 6,775. This was driven by a 27% increase in the number of attempted murders and serious assaults recorded by the police, from 3,166 to 4,007. Over 90% of this category is made up of serious assaults, which increased by 28% from 2,859 in 2014-15 to 3,667 in 2015-16.

When HMICS published an earlier audit of crime recording in 2013, they recommended that the definition used for serious assault within the Scottish Crime Recording Standard ( SCRS) be reviewed and clarified, as some police officers sought greater clarity from the existing guidance. In response to this, enhanced guidelines as to the interpretation of serious assault were produced in January 2015.

When publsihing their Management Information report for Quarter 4 2015-16 in June 2016, Police Scotland advised that this action may have resulted in some crimes that would have been seen previously as common assaults now falling into the category of serious assault. This in turn may have led to an increase in overall levels of Group 1 non-sexual violent crime in 2015-16 (the first full year following the introduction of enhanced guidelines).

At this stage, complementary sources of information do not report a significant increase in levels of violence, albeit 2015-16 statistics are not yet available for all of them. Police recorded common assault (covered in more detail under Group 6 Miscelleanous Offences) increased by only 1% between 2014-15 and 2015-16. The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey ( SCJS) estimated a statistically significant decrease in violent crime of 41% between 2008-09 and 2014-15, whilst numbers of assault based emergency admissions to hospital fell 53% between 2006-07 and 2014-15 (more detail on these sources is provided below under Data Comparisons).


HMICS Crime Audit 2016

The HMICS Audit report included an examination of violent incidents. It should be noted that in addition to the crimes covered within Group 1 non-sexual crimes of violence, these incidents also included cases of Common assault (the figures for which are contained in this bulletin under Group 6 - Miscellaneous offences). Further information on this audit, including definitions of terminology and tests used, can be found in Annex 2.

Of the 1,693 crimes examined that resulted from violent incidents, 96.0% were counted and classified correctly. The audit found that 34 crimes had been under-counted and 15 had been over-counted. More than half of the under-counted crimes were for common assault; the most commonly over-counted crime was threatening and abusive behaviour, which was often recorded in addition to an assault where it should have been subsumed [4] instead.

A number of crimes (19) were classified incorrectly:

  • six assaults should have been serious assaults and one assault should have been a robbery;
  • one serious assault should have been an attempted murder;
  • three breaches of the peace should have been threatening and abusive behaviour under section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010
  • five section 38 offences should have been assaults, one section 38 should have been a robbery and one section 38 should have been a serious assault; and
  • one culpable and reckless conduct should have been an assault.

The HMICS audit report notes that whilst classification errors were similar to those found in 2014, there has been improvement in some key areas. For example there were fewer cases in 2016 of more serious violent crimes being classified as less serious, and this may be partly due to extensive work by the crime registrars to ensure serious assaults are not wrongly classified as common assaults. However, it was also noted that the 'errors involving section 38 offences (Threatening and Abusive behaviour) suggests that this offence might be at risk of being used as a 'catch-all' for violent behaviour'.

Of the 1,986 violent incidents [5] examined in the audit, 93.0% were closed correctly. Test 1 errors for violent incidents generally arose because there was insufficient update on the incident to dispel an initial inference of criminality; there was a lack of follow-up regarding the allegation; the complainer became unco-operative; or the SCRS was misapplied.


This segment includes information that should be considered to widen contextual understanding of the data provided on Group 1 - Non-sexual crimes of violence. Detail is provided on a separate homicide bulletin, an analysis of assault-based emergency hospital admissions and the SCJS. Collectively this provides a complementary outlook on violent crime in Scotland.


A separate Homicide in Scotland bulletin is produced by the Scottish Government that contains more detailed information on the crimes of Murder and Culpable homicide (common law). The data contained within the Homicide bulletin will differ from the data presented here for the following reasons:

  • The Homicide in Scotland bulletin does not cover all of the crimes included within the Homicide etc. category per this bulletin (as detailed above), such as Causing death by dangerous driving and Corporate homicide.
  • The data in the Homicide in Scotland bulletin are collected from the police separately to the data presented in this bulletin and are collected on an individual case basis. This allows characteristics of victims and accused, such as age and gender, as well as the circumstances of the homicide, to be collected and then included in the bulletin.
  • The data are extracted from police recording systems at different time points, which may result in reclassification of crimes, such as attempted murder to murder, not being revised in the collections for this bulletin, but are reflected in the Homicide in Scotland bulletin.

We therefore recommend that users interested in Homicide statistics should refer directly to the Homicide in Scotland bulletin series, which can be accessed at:

The next Homicide in Scotland statistical bulletin will contain data for 2015-16 and is scheduled to be published on 11 October 2016.

Emergency Hospital Admissions as a result of Assault

As highlighted above, there has been a 45% reduction in the number of attempted murders and serious assaults recorded by the police between 2006-07 and 2015-16, from 7,345 to 4,007. Another source of statistics on assault is ISD Scotland's annual publication on hospital admissions due to unintentional injuries. This includes the number of emergency hospital admissions for assault. The latest figures (for 2014-15) are available at:

It is not possible to make direct comparisons between the two sources. Not all cases of police recorded attempted murder or serious assault may include an emergency admission to hospital (treatment might only be required within the Accident and Emergency department or the complainer may not wish to seek medical advice). Furthermore, not all emergency admissions to hospital for assault may be reported to the police. Depending on the type of injuries sustained by the complainer, some assault-based emergency admissions may be recorded as a common assault rather than a serious assault. However, as these sources both generally relate to how Scotland's emergency services respond to the most serious types of assault, it would be anticipated that both should show similar trends over time.

There were 2,533 emergency hospital admissions as a result of assault in 2014-15, of which 530 were due to assault with a sharp object and 2,003 were other assaults. This represents a 53% reduction in the total number of emergency admissions due to assault since 2006-07, including a 61% reduction in the number of emergency admissions due to assault with a sharp object and a 50% reduction in other assaults. This comparison confirms that the significant reduction in police recorded crimes of attempted murder and serious assault over the past 10 years has also been broadly reflected in statistics for emergency admissions to hospital.

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey ( SCJS)

In addition to the information on police recorded crime, crime in Scotland is also measured by the SCJS, a national survey with adults (aged 16 and over) living in private households which asks respondents about their experiences of crime.

It should be noted that violent crime as defined by the SCJS is not directly comparable with non-sexual crimes of violence recorded by the Police. Non-sexual crimes of violence (as used in police recorded crime) includes homicide, whilst common assaults (which make up the majority of SCJS violent crime) are included in this bulletin under Group 6 - Miscellaneous Offences. A more detailed examination of comparisons between the SCJS and recorded crime is made within Chapter 4.

Key points from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey:

Of the 688,000 crimes measured by the SCJS in 2014-15, 186,000 (27%) were violent crimes. It is estimated that 2.6% of adults in Scotland were a victim of violent crime in 2014-15.

In 2014-15, minor assaults made up the vast majority of SCJS violent crime (76%), followed by attempted assault (16%), serious assault (4%) and robbery (4%).

Further detail on the comparable crime set is available in Section 5.3. As outlined there and in the Annex of the 2014-15 SCJS, violent crime in the SCJS includes assault and robbery, crimes which are included in Group 1 (Non-sexual crimes of violence) and Group 6 (Miscellaneous offences) in police recorded crime figures.

As outlined in Section 5.3, recorded violent crime figures in the comparable category decreased by 24% between 2008-09 and 2014-15, while for the same period the SCJS estimates of violent crime decreased by 41% (a statistically significant change in the SCJS results).


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