Statistics on recorded crimes and offences inform the Scottish Government’s Justice Vision and Priorities - available via the following link: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Justice/justicestrategy.
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 and in the User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland, available via the following link: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/PubRecordedCrime/UserGuide.
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 on the Scottish Government website: https://www.gov.scot/publications/
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.
For further information on crime and offence groups, see groups Figure 1 and Chapter 7.
Figure 1: Breakdown of crime and offence groups
1 Non-Sexual crimes of violence
2 sexual crimes
3 Crimes of dishonesty
4 Fire-raising, vandalism etc.
5 Other crimes
Coronavirus restrictions crimes*
*(new group for 2019-20)
6 Miscellaneous offences
7 Motor vehicle offences
The Scottish Crime Recording Board ran a consultation on how these National Statistics are presented. This included inviting user views on potential changes to the grouping structure outlined above. The consultation closed on 30th November 2019, with further background available at the following link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/consultation-official-statistics-present-information-recorded-crime-related-topics/
Following the consultation, the Crime Board was due to consider responses alongside other stakeholder feedback in advance of deciding any changes to how these statistics are presented in future. However this work is currently paused due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the resultant increase in demand for associated analysis (for example the recent introduction of new monthly official statistics on crimes and offences recorded by the police). Going forward, users will be kept informed of any developments relating to the consultation through the ScotStat network.
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 which crimes were committed in earlier years.
The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) 2018-19 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 perceptions of crime. A detailed analytical comparisons between recorded crime and the SCJS is provided in Chapter 4.
In September 2016 the Office for Statistics Regulation (at the time known as the UK Statistics Authority) designated Recorded Crime in Scotland as National Statistics, which means that they meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value. A more recent compliance check in December 2019 confirmed this status, with some recommendations for further improvement going forward. Work on these recommendations was paused as statisticians took on new work in relation to COVID-19, however this will be returned to once resources are available again.
The statistics on recorded crime clear up rates (Chapter 3) remain published as Official Statistics (i.e. on the same basis as since 2013-14). The Office for Statistics Regulation will re-visit the statistical designation of this information once an audit has been carried out and the Scottish Crime Recording Board has considered any implications for the quality of these data.
Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018
The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 came into force on 1st April 2019. The Act created a new offence of abusive behaviour as a course of conduct towards a partner or ex-partner. Prior to the 1st April 2019, any criminal act which formed part of a domestic abuse incident (such as a Common assault or Threatening or abusive behaviour) was included within the statistics under the relevant crime or offence. Where there is evidence of a course of conduct, new crime codes of Domestic abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 (against a male or female victim) have been created. In general, existing common law and statutory offences will continue to be recorded where appropriate, in addition to the new crimes. There are some limited exceptions (in particular Threatening and abusive behaviour), which will no longer be recorded when occurring as part of a course of conduct for Domestic Abuse. However these exceptions all relate to activity in Group 6 Miscellaneous Offences and therefore this change does not create a discontinuity within the total recorded crime figure for Scotland (which is based on Group 1 to 5).
It should be noted that new crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act related to a course of conduct only and therefore do not include all crimes relating to domestic abuse. For separate analysis of domestic abuse incidents reported to the police, please see the following: https://www.gov.scot/publications/domestic-abuse-scotland-2018-2019-statistics/
Coronavirus restrictions crimes
This year’s bulletin contains a small number of crimes relating to coronavirus restrictions. Whilst Police Scotland have stated that enforcement would be used when faced with non-compliance and only as a last resort (after they have attempted to engage, explain and encourage compliance), there were 107 crimes relating to coronavirus restrictions in 2019-20. These crimes are included within the total recorded crime figure for Scotland, though are presented separately to the existing five crime groups.
Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on recorded crime
On 23rd March 2020, a nationwide lockdown was imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with guidelines on movements for some days prior to that. This had a significant impact on daily living which also affected the number of crimes and offences recorded, to varying degrees. As these developments only cover the final few days of the 2019-20 reporting year, they are unlikely to have had a significant effect on the crime statistics presented in this bulletin. However they are likely to have a more significant impact on the 2020-21 figures.
To inform users about the volume and type of crimes and offences recorded in Scotland during the pandemic, the Scottish Government introduced a new monthly series of Official Statistics from April 2020 onwards. These can be accessed at: https://www.gov.scot/collections/recorded-crime-in-scotland/
This annual National Statistics bulletin remains the primary source of information on crimes and offences recorded by the police.
Other legislative changes, and changes to classifications can be found in the User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland, available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/PubRecordedCrime/UserGuide.