2. Main Findings: Recorded Crimes and Offences in Scotland
Total Recorded Crime
The recording of crime remains at one of the lowest levels seen since 1974. The total number of crimes recorded by the police in Scotland in 2019-20 was 246,516. This is 36 crimes (or less than 1%) higher than the level recorded in 2018-19 (Chart 1 and Table 1).
Over the past ten years crime has been on a downward trend in Scotland, having decreased by 24% since 2010-11. The relative stability in recent years is set against a generally decreasing trend in recorded crime over the longer term, from a peak in 1991 when crime reached a record high of 572,921.
Chart 2 shows the number of recorded crimes in each of the five crime groups since 1971 and gives an indication of the scale of each crime group. Crimes of dishonesty are the largest group, accounting for 45% of all recorded crime in 2019-20. This was followed by Other crimes (26%), Fire-raising, vandalism etc. (19%), Sexual crimes (5%) and Non-sexual crimes of violence (4%). These individual groups will be discussed in more detail in the sections which follow.
Local Authority analysis
Sixteen local authorities showed an increase in total recorded crime between 2018-19 and 2019-20 (Chart 3).
Four showed very little change, with the remaining twelve showing a decrease from the previous year.
Notwithstanding that year-on-year figures can vary across local authorities, the long term trend of decreasing crime is broadly the same across Scotland. Chart 4 shows that since 2010-11 all local authorities have seen a reduction in recorded crime. This varies from 45% in Na h-Eileanan Siar to a more limited 3% in Dumfries and Galloway.
In 2019-20 the largest number of crimes recorded were in Glasgow City (see Table 5), which includes 12% of Scotland’s population but accounted for 17% of all recorded crime in Scotland. It should be noted that Glasgow’s daily population will be higher than its resident population as people travel into the city from surrounding local authority areas for work, leisure and other purposes. Crimes are recorded in terms of where they occur and not the home residency of the victim (where the two places are different locations). The comparison described above for overall crime levels should be viewed in this context – which will also likely apply to Scotland’s other city based local authorities.
Further explanation of these trends is set out in the following sections for each crime group. Please note that further local authority level data for Tables 1-4 can be accessed online via dropdown menus in the excel spreadsheet (see ‘Supporting files’ at the top right hand side of the webpage): https://www.gov.scot/ISBN/978-1-80004-109-7
Crime rate per 10,000 population
There were 451 recorded crimes per 10,000 population in 2019-20, with three of Scotland’s city based areas recording the highest rates; Glasgow City (680 per 10,000 population), Dundee City (645 per 10,000 population) and Edinburgh City (579 per 10,000 population) (see Table 4 in ‘Supporting files’).
1 Population estimates are as at mid-year 2019 from the National Records of Scotland (http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/population/population-estimates/mid-year-population-estimates).
As well as the new crimes being recorded under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 and Coronavirus restrictions (both referred to above in the Background to this bulletin), previous legislative changes and changes to recording will have some effect on the longer term time series.
Changes in 2017-18 to the recording of handling offensive weapons
Changes in recorded crime from 2017-18 should be treated with some caution due to the addition of newly recorded crimes of handling an offensive weapon. Further information on this procedural change and its impact on the statistics is available in the chapter on Group 5 - Other crimes. This change will have an impact on the comparability of recorded crime statistics for all years prior to 2017-18, however the earlier the year selected (for example comparisons with 2010-11) the smaller this will be when set against the long term changes in total crime recorded by the police and other legislative and procedural changes made to the recording of crime during this period.
HMICS Crime Audit 2016: Background
This bulletin reports on the number of crimes and offences recorded by the police in Scotland. In 2016, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) published an audit which assessed the extent to which police recording practices complied with the Scottish Crime Recording Standard and Counting Rules: https://www.hmics.scot/publications/crime-audit-2016.
This audit found no systemic data quality issues around the recording of crimes and offences, with the resulting report stating that ‘the quality of most incident and crime recording decisions by Police Scotland is good’. 92.7% of incidents were closed correctly and 95.1% of crime was counted and classified correctly.
The report also found that No-criming practice was generally good, with 96.0% of the 876 cases which were initially recorded as a crime but were later re-designated as not being a crime following additional investigation, found to have been no-crimed correctly. For a more detailed discussion of the results of the audit and its relation to recorded crime, please see the previous bulletin: https://www.gov.scot/publications/recorded-crime-scotland-2018-19/
Overall, this audit demonstrates that users of crime statistics can have confidence that crimes are being classified and counted correctly.
The next HMICS Crime Audit is scheduled to be published in December 2020. Further information about HMICS’s future work plan can be found at: https://www.hmics.scot/publications/hmics-annual-scrutiny-plan-2020-21
The findings of this audit will be highlighted in the Recorded Crime in Scotland 2020-21 National Statistics bulletin.
Group 1 – Non-sexual Crimes of Violence
*This year’s figures include crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 for the first time
Number of Non-sexual crimes of violence recorded in 2019-20
Non-sexual crimes of violence account for 4% of all crimes recorded in Scotland in 2019-20. Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the number of Non-sexual crimes of violence recorded by the police in Scotland increased by 16%, from 8,008 to 9,316.
This increase is due to the recording of 1,681 new crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 in 2019-20, following its enactment on the 1st April 2019. All other Non-sexual crimes of violence collectively decreased by 5% between 2018-19 and 2019-20.
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. There have been more recent increases, although as outlined above the latest one is due to new crimes being recorded under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 following its enactment on the 1st April 2019. There remains a 42% reduction in Non-sexual crimes of violence since 2002-03.
1 Crimes recorded for the present crime groups are not available prior to 1971.
Chart 7 shows the five 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 2019-20, the volume of recorded crimes of Attempted murder and serious assault made up 44% of all Non-sexual crimes of violence. Crimes of Robbery and Other violence accounted for 19% and 18% respectively. Crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 accounted for 18% of the total number of Non-sexual crimes of violence. Since this is the first year of DASA crimes, all other categories make up a smaller proportion of Non-sexual crimes of violence than in 2018-19. Homicide etc. continues to contribute a very small proportion (1%) to the total.
Attempted murder & serious assault
Attempted murder and serious assault is the largest category in Group 1, accounting for 44% of all Non-sexual crimes of violence. This category experienced a decrease of 6% between 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20, this category has seen a decrease of 25%. These crimes fell between 2010-11 and 2014-15, before figures rose sharply in 2015-16 and then more gradually in the years that followed, until the decrease this year. At least part of the increase in 2015-16 has been attributed by Police Scotland to the introduction of enhanced guidance for recording serious assault in January 2015.
For the definition of Serious assault and the distinction between Serious assault and Common assault please see Paragraph 6.19 within Annex 1.
We earlier published the findings of a separate study into Attempted murder & serious assault. Further information is available via the following link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/recorded-crime-scotland-attempted-murder-serious-assault-2008-09-2017-18/
Data Comparisons: Emergency Hospital Admissions as a result of Assault
As highlighted above, there has been a 25% decrease in the number of attempted murders and serious assaults recorded by the police between 2010-11 and 2019-20, from 5,493 to 4,097. 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 (2018-19) are available at: https://beta.isdscotland.org/find-publications-and-data/health-services/hospital-care/unintentional-injuries/
It is not possible to make direct comparisons between the two sources for various reasons (for example not all who attend hospital with assault injuries will report what has happened to the police). 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 2,585 emergency hospital admissions as a result of assault in 2018-19, of which 665 were due to assault with a sharp object and 1,938 were other assaults. This represents a decrease of 43% in the total number of emergency admissions due to assault since 2010-11, including a 39% reduction in the number of emergency admissions due to assault with a sharp object. This comparison confirms that the 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. Whilst the reduction in hospital admissions appears to be larger than that for recorded crime, the change in guidance for crimes classed as serious assaults in 2015 may have had an impact on these figures.
Robbery accounted for 19% of Non-sexual crimes of violence. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20, this category has seen a decrease of 32%. Following an increase between 2016-17 and 2018-19, there was a 4% decrease between 2018-19 and 2019-20.
We earlier published the findings of a separate study into Robbery. Further information is available via the following link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/recorded-crime-scotland-robbery-2008-09-2017-18/
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. This category increased by 19% from 102 crimes in 2018-19 to 121 in 2019-20. The biggest contributor to this increase was a rise in driving related homicides (for example Causing death by dangerous driving) which increased by 12 crimes (from 43 to 55).
Data comparisons: Homicide
A separate Homicide in Scotland bulletin is produced by the Scottish Government which contains more detailed information on the crimes of Murder and Culpable homicide (common law). This bulletin presents characteristics of victims and accused, such as age and gender, as well as the circumstances of the homicide. We therefore recommend that users interested in Homicide statistics should refer directly to the Homicide in Scotland bulletin series, which can be accessed at: https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/PubHomicide.
The next Homicide in Scotland statistical bulletin will contain data for 2019-20 and will be published on October 27th 2020.
Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018
There were 1,681 new crimes recorded under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 in 2019-20, the first year this legislation has been in place. Of those new crimes, 94% (or 1,577) involved a female victim and 6% (or 104) had a male victim.
Other non-sexual violence
The Other violence category includes crimes such as Cruelty to & unnatural treatment of children, Threats & extortion and Abduction, which together account for more than 80% of the crimes within this category. More detail is provided in Chapter 7.
Crimes recorded as Other violence account for 18% of Non-sexual crimes of violence. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20 this category has seen a decrease of 49%, including a 4% decrease from 1,740 in 2018-19 to 1,679 in 2019-20.
Group 2 – Sexual Crimes
Number of Sexual crimes recorded in 2018-19
Sexual crimes account for 5% of all crimes recorded in Scotland in 2019-20. The number of Sexual crimes recorded by the police in Scotland decreased by 1% from 13,547 in 2018-19 to 13,364 in 2019-20.
Chart 8 below shows the number of Sexual crimes from 1971 onwards. Sexual crimes have been on a long-term upward trend since 1974, with some fluctuations. Prior to the small decrease in 2019-20, there had been increases each year since 2008-09.
1 Crimes recorded for the present crime groups are not available prior to 1971.
Whilst the specific age of the victim cannot generally be determined from the data supplied by Police Scotland, many of the sexual crime codes used by the police to record crime make it clear when the victim was aged under 18 (for example, Sexual assault of older male child (13-15 years)). By adding up all these crime codes, we know that at least 40% of the 13,364 sexual crimes recorded in 2019-20 by the police related to a victim under the age of 18. This proportion is similar to the previous year.
Chart 9 shows the four categories within Sexual crimes over the last ten years, and gives an indication of the trend and scale of each category. In 2019-20, Other sexual crimes made up 45% of all Sexual crimes. Sexual assault and Rape and attempted rape accounted for 37% and 18% respectively of sexual crimes. At just 1%, Crimes associated with prostitution continue to represent a very small proportion of the total.
The number of recorded crimes in the Other sexual crimes and Sexual assault categories have changed markedly over time. They almost converged after 2010, which coincides with the implementation of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009, before they both increased during the years that followed up to the present. Information on the impact of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 is available under ‘Data Considerations’ below.
Table A1 contains more detailed breakdowns for Sexual crimes.
Sexual assault accounted for 37% of Sexual crimes in 2019-20. Until this year this category had been on an upward trend since 2011-12, having increased by 76% between then and 2018-19. However, this year Sexual assaults fell by 4%, from 5,123 in 2018-19 to 4,936 in 2019-20.
Rape & attempted rape
Rape & attempted rape accounted for 18% of Sexual crimes. Similar to Sexual assault, after an upward trend from 2010-11 to 2018-19, there was a 3% decrease in Rape & attempted rape this year, from 2,426 in 2018-19 to 2,343 in 2019-20.
Crimes associated with prostitution
Crimes associated with prostitution account for 1% of Sexual crimes. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20, these crimes have seen a large fall of 82%. This year’s figure (101 crimes) is the lowest over the last ten years.
Over half (58%) of the crimes recorded in 2019-20 were in the Glasgow City area, with a further 18% recorded in Aberdeen City.
Other sexual crimes
The Other sexual crimes category includes crimes such as Communicating indecently; Taking, possessing and distributing indecent photos of children; Sexual exposure, Public indecency and Causing to view sexual images or activity. From 2017-18 onwards it also includes Disclosing or threatening to disclose an intimate image.
The implementation of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 has had an impact on any comparisons with data prior to 2017-18. The Act led to new crimes of Disclosing or threatening to disclose an intimate image being recorded from 2017-18 onwards, with 655 being recorded in 2019-20 (this is part of an increasing trend with 421 crimes being recorded in 2017-18 and 596 recorded in 2018-19). As such, part of the increase in Other sexual crimes since 2016-17 is due to this legislative change. Further information is available in the ‘Data Considerations’ section below.
Other sexual crimes are the largest category in Group 2, accounting for 45% of Sexual crimes. This category has been on an upward trend since 2010-11, having increased by 238% within that time, including a 4% increase from 5,763 in 2018-19 to 5,984 in 2019-20.
We earlier published the findings of a research project into Other sexual crimes, based on a sample of around 2,000 crimes recorded by the police in 2013-14 and 2016-17. The research contains details about the victims, perpetrators and circumstances of these crimes. The research suggests that cyber enabled Other sexual crimes (i.e. where the internet has been used as a means to commit the crime) contributed around half to the total growth in all recorded Sexual crimes between 2013-14 and 2016-17. Further information is available via the following link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/recorded-crime-scotland-sexual-crimes-2013-14-2016-17/
A number of legislative and procedural changes should be kept in mind when reviewing trends in sexual crime over the longer term.
Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009
The implementation of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 on 1st December 2010 resulted in a number of changes to the recording of sexual crimes, including a redistribution of Group 2 crimes among the subcategories and a widened the definition of rape. A number of crimes which may have been recorded as Breach of the peace prior to the implementation of the Act would also not have shown up as sexual crimes before December 2010. Comparisons with data prior to 2010-11 for these categories should therefore be treated with caution.
Taking, distribution etc. indecent photos of children
In 2010-11, incidents of Taking, distribution etc. indecent photos of children were transferred from Group 6 Miscellaneous offences to Group 2 Sexual crimes and back-revised to 2009-10. Whilst these crimes represent a small proportion of sexual crimes (4% of all Group 2 Sexual crimes in 2019-20), it has resulted in a small discontinuity in the time series for any analysis that spans 2009-10.
Communications Act (2003) Sexual
This change involved reclassifying some activity from an offence group to a crime group, and so resulted in a small increase in total recorded crime, with 223 recorded in 2019-20. Statistics for 2016-17 were back-revised within the 2017-18 bulletin, to ensure time series continuity was not affected. There will be some discontinuity for earlier years as Communications Act 2003 offences with a sexual element were not separately identifiable within the statistics until 2016-17.
Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016
Finally, the implementation of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 on 3rd July 2017 resulted in new crimes of Disclosing or threatening to disclose an intimate image being recorded. This has contributed to the increase in Other sexual crimes. Whilst some of these cases may have been recorded as a different crime or offence had they occurred prior to the Act, it is likely the majority of them would not have been classified as a Sexual crime. The enactment of this legislation also extended the criminal law to criminalise certain conduct that previously may not have been illegal.
There were 655 crimes of Disclosing or threatening to disclose an intimate image in 2019-20.
Historical (non-recent) reporting
In addition to the legislative and procedural changes outlined above, the issue of historical reporting of sexual crime also continues to play a role in the latest statistics. Further information from Police Scotland suggests that around a quarter (25%) of sexual crimes in 2019-20 were recorded at least one year after they occurred and that this figure is similar to the previous year. Furthermore, as discussed below the use of specific codes to record sexual crime also highlights where these cases are historical.
Table A1 reports 1,116 crimes of Lewd and libidinous practices in 2019-20. These crimes should all relate to offences which occurred prior to the implementation of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 on 1 December 2010, as the Act replaced Lewd and libidinous practices with specific sexual assault crimes. As a result, we know that these are historical (non-recent) offences. Similarly, there were 278 crimes of Sexual assault committed prior to 1 December 2010.
This segment includes information that should be considered to widen contextual understanding of the data provided on Group 2 - Sexual crimes. Detail is provided on limited comparisons with recorded crime in England & Wales and Northern Ireland. Further detail on the type of information available from the SCJS on sexual crime is also included.
Comparisons with England & Wales and Northern Ireland
While recorded crime in Scotland is not directly comparable with England & Wales or Northern Ireland due to differences in legislation and counting rules, there are some tentative signs that the previous long-term upward trend for sexual crimes across the UK may be slowing down. In 2019-20, sexual crimes recorded by police in England & Wales and Northern Ireland remained relatively stable, compared to the 1% decrease in Scotland.
Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS)
Detailed information on the victims of sexual crime is not collected in the main SCJS survey. Information on sensitive topics is collected through a number of additional self-completion sections. Some of these sections include information on sexual crime; for example, the self-completion elements of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 surveys included questions on sexual victimisation, stalking and harassment, and partner abuse. The findings are included in the 2017-18 Main Findings report.
Group 3 – Crimes of Dishonesty
Number of Crimes of dishonesty recorded in 2019-20
Crimes of dishonesty account for over two-fifths (45%) of all crime recorded in Scotland in 2019-20. Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the number of Crimes of dishonesty recorded by the police in Scotland decreased by 3%, from 114,506 to 111,409.
Chart 10 below shows the number of Crimes of dishonesty from 1971 onwards. Crimes of dishonesty increased for a long period between 1971 and 1991. Since then there has been a long-term decreasing trend, with a decrease of 74% between 1991 and 2019-20. These crimes are at their lowest level since 1971, the first year for which comparable crime groups are available.
1 Crimes recorded for the present crime groups are not available prior to 1971.
Chart 11 shows the four largest categories within Crimes of dishonesty over the last ten years, and gives an indication of the trend and scale of each category. Other theft has consistently been the biggest contributor to Crimes of dishonesty, although this is experiencing a downward trend. Other theft and Housebreaking fell by 36% and 48% respectively between 2010-11 and 2019-20. During this same time there were increases in Shoplifting (up 3%) and Fraud (up 33%). While not displayed in Chart 11, the numbers of Theft by opening a lockfast place (OLP), Theft from a motor vehicle by OLP and Theft of a motor vehicle have decreased over the ten years from 2010-11 to 2019-20 (Table 1).
Other theft consists of Theft of pedal cycles, Theft from a motor vehicle not elsewhere classified and Theft not elsewhere classified (excl. motor vehicles).
This category is the largest in Crimes of dishonesty, accounting for 37% of these crimes. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20, Other theft has seen a decrease of 36%, including a 3% decrease from 42,880 in 2018-19 to 41,421 in 2019-20.
Shoplifting accounted for over a quarter (28%) of Crimes of dishonesty. Shoplifting decreased by 8% from 33,523 in 2018-19 to 30,688 in 2019-20. This follows an increasing trend since 2014-15. The number of Shopliftings recorded was 3% higher than in 2010-11.
Housebreaking accounted for 12% of Crimes of dishonesty. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20 this crime group has decreased by 48%, including a 6% decrease from 13,777 in 2018-19 to 12,903 in 2019-20.
Data validation: Housebreaking
HMICS’s 2014 Crime Audit provided a quality assessment of crime recording decisions regarding housebreaking. Further details of this audit, and a link to the full audit, can be found in the User Guide.
Crimes of Fraud account for 11% of Crimes of dishonesty. After a relatively stable period between 2010-11 and 2013-14 and a decrease in 2014-15, crimes of fraud have experienced an upward trend since 2014-15. Crimes of fraud have increased by 33% since 2010-11, including a 23% increase between 2018-19 and 2019-20.
An Additional Topical Analysis of Fraud, based on a random sample of 500 crime records, was included in last year’s bulletin. The results of this can be found here: Recorded Crime in Scotland: 2018-19.
Theft from a motor vehicle by opening a lockfast place (OLP)
Theft from a motor vehicle by OLP accounted for 3% of Crimes of dishonesty. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20 this crime has seen a large decrease of 69%, including a 16% decrease from 3,532 in 2018-19 to 2,982 in 2019-20.
Theft of a motor vehicle
Theft of a motor vehicle accounted for 4% of Crimes of dishonesty. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20 this crime has seen a decrease of 43%, although there has been a small increase of 1% or 52 crimes from 4,950 in 2018-19 to 5,002 crimes in 2019-20.
Other crimes of dishonesty
Other crimes of dishonesty includes Reset, Corruption, Embezzlement and other crimes of forgery which are not classified elsewhere.
Other crimes of dishonesty account for 4% of total Crimes of dishonesty. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20 this crime has seen a decrease of 10%, however there was a 6% increase from 4,485 in 2018-19 to 4,746 in 2019-20.
Theft by opening a lockfast place (OLP)
Theft by opening a lockfast place (OLP) accounted for 2% of Crimes of dishonesty in 2019-20. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20, this crime has seen a decrease of 57%, although there has been a small increase of 3% from 1,684 in 2018-19 to 1,728 in 2019-20.
Group 4 – Fire-raising, Vandalism etc.
Number of crimes of Fire-raising, vandalism etc. recorded in 2019-20:
Fire-raising, vandalism etc. accounted for 19% of all crime recorded in Scotland in 2019-20. Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the number of crimes of Fire-raising, vandalism etc. recorded by the police in Scotland decreased by 1%, from 47,997 to 47,731. The recording of these crimes is at the lowest level seen since 1976.
Chart 12 shows the number of crimes of Fire-raising, vandalism etc. from 1971 onwards. Levels of Fire-raising, vandalism etc. increased for a long period, but there was a sharp downward trend since they peaked in 2006-07. Since 2010-11 the number of these crimes has fallen by 42%.
The national rate of recorded crimes of Fire-raising, vandalism etc. fell from 88 to 87 crimes per 10,000 population in 2019-20.
Due to the difference in scale of recorded crimes of Vandalism etc. and Fire-raising, Charts 13 and 14 show these two categories separately to better highlight the similar downward trends they have followed over the last ten years.
1 Crimes recorded for the present crime groups are not available prior to 1971.
Vandalism etc. accounted for 94% of crimes of Fire-raising, vandalism etc. These crimes have decreased by 1% from 45,516 in 2018-19 to 45,074 in 2019-20. The longer term trend has also been downwards, with the number of crimes recorded decreasing by 42% between 2010-11 and 2019-20.
The Vandalism etc. category includes crimes recorded under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. There were 21 such crimes recorded in 2019-20.
Fire-raising accounted for 6% of crimes of Fire-raising, vandalism etc. These crimes have increased by 7% from 2,481 in 2018-19 to 2,657 in 2019-20. Fire-raising has decreased by a third over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20.
Data comparisons: Fire-raising
Another source of statistics on fires in Scotland is an annual publication covering the number of fires attended by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS). The latest figures (for 2018-19) are available at: http://www.firescotland.gov.uk/about-us/fire-and-rescue-statistics.aspx.
It is not possible to make direct comparisons between the two sources, as many fires are caused accidentally rather than as a result of a crime, and the police are not called to all deliberate fires. Furthermore, not all police recorded crimes of fire-raising may result in the attendance of the SFRS. However as these sources both relate to how Scotland’s emergency services respond to fires, it would be anticipated that both should show similar trends over time.
A total of 26,726 fires were attended by the SFRS in 2018-19, over half of which (56%) were started deliberately. This represents a 2% increase from 2017-18.
Between 2009-10 and 2018-19, there has been a reduction of 31% in the total number of fires attended and a 35% decrease in the number of deliberate fires. This comparison suggests that the overall reduction in police recorded crimes of fire-raising over the past 10 years has also been broadly reflected in statistics for the SFRS.
Group 5 – Other crimes
Number of Other crimes recorded in 2019-20
Other crimes account for around one quarter (26%) of all crimes recorded in Scotland in 2019-20. Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the number of Other crimes recorded by the police increased by 3%, from 62,422 to 64,589.
1 Crimes recorded for the present crime groups are not available prior to 1971.
Chart 16 shows the four categories within Other crimes over the last ten years, and gives an indication of the trend and scale of each category. Drugs crimes have consistently been the biggest contributor, accounting for 55% in 2019-20. A further 30% were Crimes against public justice and 15% were crimes of Handling offensive weapons.
*There was a procedural change to the counting of crimes of Handling an offensive weapon in 2017-18. As such the significant rise in the total number of recorded crimes of Handling an offensive weapon shown for that year, does not represent a real increase in these crimes.
Drug crimes account for 55% of Other crimes. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20 this crime has increased by 3%, including a 1% increase from 34,831 crimes in 2018-19 to 35,303 in 2019-20.
Most of these crimes (86%) are for drug possession, where the quantity of drugs seized is small enough to be considered for personal use (as opposed to crimes of drug supply).
An additional topical analysis of drug possession crimes recorded in 2018-19 is presented at the end of this section.
Crimes against public justice
Crimes against public justice account for 30% of Other crimes and include Bail offences, Resisting arrest and General attempts to pervert the course of justice. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20 this crime has decreased by 26%, although there was an increase of 5% from 18,512 in 2018-19 to 19,441 in 2019-20.
Handling offensive weapons
In 2017-18 the Scottish Crime Recording Board made a procedural change to how some crimes of handling an offensive weapon were recorded. This has had an impact on the comparability of the recorded crime statistics before and after this point.
Prior to 2017-18, statistics on handling offensive weapons in public places only include incidents where the perpetrator did not commit further crimes with the weapon. If they had, the specific crime of handling an offensive weapon was considered an aggravation of the crime it was used to commit (for example an aggravated assault) and would not have been included in the statistics.
From the 1st April 2017, crimes of handling offensive weapons in public places are no longer treated as an aggravation where they are used to commit other crimes or offences against a person. As such both the crime of handling an offensive weapon in a public place and any crime or offence committed with it are now both included in the statistics. This change was made to improve consistency between the recording of these crimes and the criminal law.
As a result of this amendment to recording practice, crimes of handling an offensive weapon have been substantially higher since 2017-18. This does not represent a real increase in recorded crime, and this change will continue have an impact on the comparability of recorded crime statistics for all years prior to 2017-18.
Not used in other crimes or offences
From 2017-18 onwards, crimes of Handling an offensive weapon in Scotland can be counted in two different ways. The first is to use the pre-existing statistics, where the offensive weapon hasn’t been used to commit another crime or offence against a person in a public place. These crimes account for 7% of Other crimes in 2019-20.
Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20 this category decreased by 29%. However, there was a 6% increase from 4,216 in 2018-19 to 4,484 in 2019-20, the fourth year-on-year increase following a prolonged decrease in these crimes.
In 2019-20, 89 crimes of handling an offensive weapon (not used) occurred within a prison and a further 146 occurred within a school. This compares to 127 occurring in a prison and 127 occurring in a school in 2018-19.
Used in other crimes or offences
In addition to the above measure, figures are also available for where the offensive weapon was used to commit another crime or offence against a person in a public place. These crimes account for 8% of Other crimes in 2019-20. There was a 10% increase from 4,680 in 2018-19 to 5,160 in 2019-20.
In 2019-20, 62 crimes of handling an offensive weapon (used) occurred within a prison and a further 61 occurred within a school. This compares to 84 occurring in a prison and 72 occurring in a school in 2018-19.
In June 2018 a report was published that presented more detailed information on the handling of offensive weapons within public places in Scotland. This included findings on the characteristics of these cases, based on a random sample of 1,500 crimes recorded by the police for the first six months (April to September) of 2013 and 2017.
The overwhelming majority of police recorded crimes for Handling an offensive weapon in a public place were committed by males. When the weapon was not used in other criminal activity the median age of perpetrators was 29 and the majority of crimes involved a knife or other articles with a blade or point.
When the weapon was used in other criminal activity in a public place, the majority of cases involved a male perpetrator and a male victim, who were known to each other and who were both more likely than average to live in urban areas and areas of higher deprivation. In these cases just over half of weapons used were items other than knives or other articles with a blade or point.
The most common criminal act committed with a weapon in a public place was Threatening or abusive behaviour followed by Common assault. In the majority of cases the crime or offence resulted in no physical injury to the victim and this proportion was higher when the victim was female or if the victim did not know the perpetrator. More information can be found by accessing the ‘Recorded Crime in Scotland: Handling Offensive Weapons’ publication:
Data considerations: Handling Offensive Weapons
Following the decision by the Scottish Crime Recording Board to change the approach to recording crimes of handling offensive weapons in 2017-18 and the impact this was likely to have on the Recorded Crime National Statistics, Scottish Government statisticians undertook a review of crime records to test whether this change had been implemented effectively. The review found that over 90% of records in the sample studied had been correctly classified. More information can be found by accessing the ‘Recorded Crime in Scotland: Handling Offensive Weapons’ publication: https://www.gov.scot/publications/recorded-crime-scotland-handling-offensive-weapons/
The Other category within Other crimes includes Treason; Conspiracy; Explosive offences; Wrecking, piracy and hijacking; and Crimes against public order.
This category accounted for less than 1% of Other crimes in 2019-20. Over the past 10 years this type of crime increased by a third, including a 10% increase from 183 in 2018-19 to 201 in 2019-20.
Coronavirus restrictions crimes
The Coronavirus Act 2020 and Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 were implemented on 25th March and 27th March 2020 respectively and have resulted in new crimes being recorded. For example, where someone, who had left the place they were living, did not have a reasonable excuse for this when asked by a police officer, and failed to comply with police advice or instruction to return there.
Given the rapid pace of these changes, Police Scotland have used a bespoke data collection to capture information on the number of new crimes recorded under the coronavirus legislation.
As the legislation noted above was introduced towards the end of 2019-20, this year’s recorded crime figures only include a small number of Coronavirus restrictions crimes. Whilst many incidents will have been dealt with by police without the need for enforcement, 107 Coronavirus restrictions crimes were recorded in 2019-20. Of these, 35 occurred in Glasgow City, 15 in South Lanarkshire and 11 in South Ayrshire.
An analysis of drug possession crimes, 2018-19
The Official Statistics on Drug Seizures and Offender Characteristics presents figures on the number and type of drug seizures made by Police Scotland. The latest edition, for the 2017-18 reporting year was published in March 2019 and is available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/drug-seizures-offender-characteristics-2017-18/
Each year, as part of preparing the Official Statistics on Drug Seizures and Offender Characteristics, Scottish Government statisticians review a sample of crimes of drug possession.
Updated figures for 2018-19 and 2019-20 are due to be published in Spring 2021. Given part of the data collection process for 2018-19 had been completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (specifically an analysis of the characteristics of drug possession crimes, where that possession was considered to be small enough for personal use), we have provided this below to aid user understanding of drug crime in Scotland.
The data presented here is based on a random sample of 400 crimes recorded in 2018-19. As this analysis is drawn from a sample of records, users should treat the following information as a broad indication of the characteristics of drug possession rather than as an exact measure. All figures are presented at a national level as the sample size is too small to provide robust estimates for geographies below this.
Type of drugs seized from drug possession crimes
In 2018-19, cannabis (herbal and resin), etizolam, cocaine, and heroin accounted for 80.8% of all drug possession seizures (Table D1).
Cannabis is the most commonly seized drug by a considerable margin (51.0%), which splits into herbal cannabis (39.3%) and cannabis resin (11.8%), this equates to an estimated 15,200 crimes of cannabis possession in 2018-19 (Table D2). The second most commonly seized drug was etizolam, accounting for 13.3% of all seizures in 2018-19.
Between 2017-18 and 2018-19, the number of crimes of drug possession recorded by the police increased by 8%. One factor in this growth may be the UK government’s 2017 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which made it illegal to possess etizolam (a ‘designer’ benzodiazepine) through classification as a Class C drug.
In 2018-19 (i.e. the first full year following enactment), 13.3% of all drug possession crimes were estimated to involve etizolam, equating to an estimated 4,000 crimes recorded in that year. This compares to an estimated 5% of drug possession crimes (or 1,500 estimated crimes) in 2017-18, the largest estimated increase of any drug type in 2018-19. This demonstrates the impact that changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act, in this case making the possession of etizolam illegal, can have on recorded crime.
* Only a small number of records in 2018-19 related to possession of diazepam, as such we are unable to provide a robust estimate of total volume for the latest year.
1 From 2017-18 onwards, separate figures are presented for etizolam, a 'designer' benzodiazepine, which was classified as a Class C drug under a 2017 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
2 As these figures are estimates they have been rounded to the nearest 100
Total Recorded Offences
Total number of offences recorded in 2019-20:
Due to anomalies in the data for Motor vehicle offences, statistics for total recorded offences by the police are only comparable from 2013-14 onwards. Further detail on these anomalies can be found later in this section and in Annex 2.
The total number of offences recorded has halved since 2013-14, including a 1% increase from 247,791 in 2018-19 to 250,662 in 2019-20 (Table 2).
Miscellaneous offences and Motor vehicle offences account for fairly equal proportions of total offences, compared to 2013-14 when Motor vehicle offences accounted for almost 60% of the total.
It should be noted that the number of offences recorded by the police generally tends to be affected to a greater extent by police activity and operational decisions than the number of crimes.
National Statistics on total recorded offences are based on data which Police Scotland extract from their IT system (called the Scottish Operational and Management Information System (ScOMIS)) and submit to the Scottish Government. Prior to 2013-14 and the establishment of Police Scotland, the Scottish Government collected recorded offences data from the eight legacy forces, who in turn extracted the data from their own systems.
Coinciding with this change of collection, the Scottish Government carried out an extensive data quality exercise to assess the comparability of data extracted from ScOMIS with the data published in previous bulletins. This analysis identified that a number of offence codes are non-comparable over time. For Group 6, Miscellaneous Offences, all data are fully comparable from 2008-09 onwards. For Group 7, Motor Vehicle Offences and hence the overall figures on Offences (based on Groups 6 and 7), data are only comparable from 2013-14 onwards.
The Scottish Government produced a Technical Report in 2014 which detailed the quality assurance work it carried out in reaching this conclusion: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/PubRecordedCrime
Group 6 – Miscellaneous Offences
Number of Miscellaneous offences recorded in 2019-20:
Miscellaneous offences account for around half (51%) of all offences recorded in Scotland in 2019-20. Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the number of Miscellaneous offences recorded by the police in Scotland decreased by 1%, from 130,686 to 128,755.
Due to a number of anomalies in the data for Miscellaneous offences, this group is only comparable from 2008-09 onwards. Further information on the comparability of Group 6 is available in Annex 2.
The national rate of recorded Miscellaneous offences decreased from 240 per 10,000 population in 2018-19 to 236 offences per 10,000 population in 2019-20 (see Table 4).
Chart 17 shows the five categories within Miscellaneous offences over the last ten years. This chart gives an indication of the trend and scale of each category. Common assault and Breach of the peace etc. have consistently been the biggest categories within Miscellaneous offences.
Common assault is the largest category in Miscellaneous offences, accounting for more than two-fifths (45%) in 2019-20. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20, this category has fallen by just under a fifth (18%). There was a smaller than 1% decrease from 2018-19 to 2019-20 (a decrease of 82 offences).
Of the 57,833 offences recorded in 2019-20, 7,519 (15%) related to common assault of emergency workers, an increase of 6% since 2018-19 and 16% since 2010-11 (see Table A8).
The Recorded Crime in Scotland 2015-16 bulletin presented the results of an analysis of police recorded Common assault conducted by Scottish Government statisticians. More information can be found by accessing the ‘Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2015-16’ bulletin: https://www.gov.scot/publications/recorded-crime-scotland-2015-16/
Data validation: Common assaults
Scottish Government statisticians reviewed a random sample of 500 common assault records from 2014-15 to develop a better understanding of the nature of this type of offence. The quality of recording decisions for Common assault by Police Scotland was very good, with 98% of Common assaults classified correctly. The full findings and analysis from this sample can be found in the 2015-16 Recorded Crime in Scotland publication: https://www.gov.scot/publications/recorded-crime-scotland-2015-16/
Breach of the peace etc.
Breach of the peace etc. includes Breach of the peace, Threatening or abusive behaviour, Stalking, Offensive behaviour at football and Threatening communications. A further breakdown of Breach of the peace etc. into its component parts is available in Table A6.
Breach of the peace etc. is the second largest category in Miscellaneous offences, accounting for almost two-fifths (39%) in 2019-20. Over the ten year period from 2010-11 to 2019-20, this category has fallen by around a third (29%), including a 1% decrease from 50,708 in 2018-19 to 50,327 in 2019-20.
It should be noted that the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, under which offences of offensive behaviour at football and threatening communications are included, was repealed by the Scottish Parliament on 19 April 2018, which means that there were no offences in 2019-20.
It should be noted that some offences which had previously been recorded under Breach of the peace etc. (primarily Threatening or abusive behaviour and Stalking) are no longer recorded when occurring as part of a course of conduct for which a crime has been recorded under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 legislation. This means there is a discontinuity in the time series for Breach of the peace etc. offences and is likely to be the reason why there has been a fall in Stalking offences.
Drunkenness and other disorderly conduct
Drunkenness and other disorderly conduct includes offences such as Drunk and incapable, Disorderly on licensed premises and Consumption of alcohol in designated places, byelaws prohibited. For further information on the classification of crimes and offences, please see Chapter 7.
Drunkenness and other disorderly conduct accounted for 4% of Miscellaneous offences in 2019-20. Despite some fluctuation, levels of this offence fell 86% between 2010-11 and 2019-20. This includes a 22% decrease from 6,724 in 2018-19 to 5,234 in 2019-20.
Urinating etc. accounted for 2% of Miscellaneous offences in 2019-20. This category generally increased for several years from 2007-08, peaking in 2012-13. Urinating etc. offences decreased by 13% from 2,466 in 2018-19 to 2,153 in 2019-20, the seventh consecutive decrease in these offences.
Other miscellaneous offences
The Other miscellaneous offences category includes a wide range of offences, including Racially aggravated harassment, Racially aggravated conduct (see section below), False/hoax calls, Offences involving children and Offences involving animals/plants. For further information on the classification of crimes and offences, please see Chapter 7.
Other miscellaneous offences account for 10% of Miscellaneous offences in 2019-20. These offences increased by 3% from 12,873 in 2018-19 to 13,208 in 2019-20.
It should be noted that the Other miscellaneous offences category is not considered comparable for years prior to 2008-09. Further information on quality issues is available in the ‘Data Considerations’ section below, and in Annex 2.
Racially aggravated harassment and conduct
Table A7 shows these offences for the last ten years. In 2019-20 there were 92 offences of Racially aggravated harassment and 1,645 offences of Racially aggravated conduct. While these include specific racially aggravated offences, they do not account for all criminal behaviour which may have had a racial motivation such as Threatening or abusive behaviour or Common assault.
In February 2019 the Scottish Government published the research report 'Developing Information on Hate Crime Recorded by the Police in Scotland' (https://www.gov.scot/publications/developing-information-hate-crime-recorded-police-scotland/).
Scottish Government statisticians are continuing to engage with Police Scotland as they develop the information they hold on hate crime. This includes a study of the characteristics and circumstances of police recorded hate crime, based on a review of crime records. A publication date for the report on the findings from this exercise will be announced in the near future.
Similar to issues previously highlighted, due to changes in police recording systems, comparisons for the Drunkenness and other disorderly conduct and Other miscellaneous offences categories in Group 6 should only be made for 2008-09 onwards. The comparability of the remaining three categories in Group 6 (Common assault; Breach of the peace etc. and Urinating etc.) are not affected.
The Scottish Government produced a Technical Report in 2014 which detailed the quality assurance work it carried out in reaching this conclusion: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/PubRecordedCrime
HMICS Crime Audit 2016
It should be noted that in the HMICS audit report, violent crime includes common assault. Please refer to the Group 1 - Non-sexual crimes of violence section. Further information on this audit, including definitions of terminology and tests used, can be found in Annex 2.
The previous HMICS Crime Audit, carried out in 2014, included a review of Hate Crime. Of the 504 Hate crimes examined, 94% were counted and classified correctly. Further information can be found in the User Guide.
Group 7 – Motor Vehicle Offences
Number of Motor vehicle offences recorded in 2019-20
Motor vehicle offences account for 49% of all offences recorded in Scotland in 2019-20. Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the number of Motor vehicle offences recorded by the police increased by 4% from 117,105 to 121,907. This amounts to an overall decrease of 59% since 2013-14.
Due to a number of anomalies in the data as a result of inconsistencies with legacy data reporting, Motor vehicle offences recorded by the police are only comparable from 2013-14 onwards. Further information on the comparability issues can be found in Annex 2.
The national rate of recorded Motor vehicle offences increased from 215 per 10,000 population in 2018-19 to 223 per 10,000 population in 2019-20 (see Table 4).
Unlawful use of vehicle
The Unlawful use of vehicle category includes offences such as Driving while disqualified, Driving without a licence, Driving without insurance, and Driving without a test certificate. Further detail can be found in Chapter 7.
Unlawful use of vehicle is the largest category in this group, accounting for just under a third (32%) of Motor vehicle offences. This category increased by 6% from 36,848 in 2018-19 to 39,022 in 2019-20.
Speeding accounted for just under a quarter (24%) of Motor vehicle offences. This category increased by 5% from 27,368 in 2018-19 to 28,758 in 2019-20. However, there has been an overall decrease of 65% since 2013-14.
These figures do not include any offences recorded as a result of the Scottish Safety Camera Programme. These are excluded as no police resources were used in the recording of an offence by this programme and the National Statistics on Recorded Crime focuses solely on crimes and offences faced by the police and not other organisations.
Dangerous and careless driving
Dangerous and careless driving accounted for 9% of Motor vehicle offences. This category increased by 2% from 10,989 in 2018-19 to 11,246 in 2019-20. Numbers have fluctuated since 2010-11, but the level is currently 14% higher than in 2010-11.
Vehicle defect offences
Vehicle defect offences account for 6% of Motor vehicle offences. This category increased by 3% from 7,107 in 2018-19 to 7,346 in 2019-20. However there has been an overall decrease of 65% since 2013-14.
Mobile phone offences
Mobile phone offences account for 2% of Motor vehicle offences. This category decreased by 15% from 2,895 in 2018-19 to 2,450 in 2019-20. Levels of these offences increased each year from 2010-11, peaking in 2013-14, but have decreased each year since. There has been an overall decrease of 91% since 2010-11 and 93% since 2013-14.
Driving under the influence
Driving under the influence accounted for 5% of Motor vehicle offences. This category increased by 13% from 5,847 in 2018-19 to 6,594 in 2019-20. Over the longer term, driving under the influence has decreased by 13% since 2010-11.
Changes to the Road Traffic Act 1988 which introduced new offences of driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with concentration of a specified controlled drug above a specified limit came into force on 21st October 2019. 616 of these new offences were recorded in 2019-20. While offences of driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle while impaired through alcohol or drugs already existed, evidence of impaired driving is not required for the new offences. This may have resulted in additional offences being recorded in relation to drug driving and therefore may have played a part in the increase Driving under the influence being recorded.
Seat belt offences
Seat belt offences account for 2% of Motor vehicle offences. This category has decreased by 4% from 2,921 in 2018-19 to 2,800 in 2019-20. Levels of these offences had previously been on a generally upward trend between 2009-10 and 2013-14, before decreasing by 93% between 2013-14 and 2019-20.
Other motor vehicle offences
The Other motor vehicle offences category includes offences such as Accident offences and Parking offences. Further detail can be found in Chapter 7.
Other motor vehicle offences account for 19% of Motor vehicle offences. This category increased by 2% from 23,130 in 2018-19 to 23,691 in 2019-20. This amounts to an overall decrease of 43% since 2013-14.
It should be noted that the Other motor vehicle offences category is not considered comparable for years prior to 2013-14. Further information on quality issues is available in Annex 2.
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