3. Official Statistics on clear up rates
This chapter presents statistics on recorded crime clear up rates in Scotland during 2019-20. Whereas the rest of this bulletin presents recorded crime statistics that have been produced as National Statistics (following the then UKSA’s decision to re-designate this information as National Statistics in 2016) – these clear up rate statistics remain published as Official Statistics.
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 the data.
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.
Clear up rates are calculated as follows:
number of crimes cleared up in year y × 100 ÷ total number of crimes recorded in year y 1
Clear up rates presented are rounded to one decimal place.
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, e.g. 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, and as such clear up rates in excess of 100% can arise in a given year.
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 currently obtained, it is not possible to do this at present. Going forward, we will investigate any improvement that could be made to the measurement of clear up rates, and will consult with users on any possible change.
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’.
A new system of recorded warnings – known as the Recorded Police Warning (RPW) scheme, was introduced by Police Scotland on 11th January 2016. The scheme allows police officers to make greater use of their discretion when dealing with minor crimes and offences, and replaces the Formal Adult Warning system. Some crimes and offences in this 2019-20 bulletin (as with previous bulletins) will have been dealt with by a RPW.
This scheme should not impact on clear up rate statistics as a RPW can only be issued where there is sufficient evidence to report a matter to the Crown (and hence meet the criteria for a ‘cleared-up’ crime or offence). To date there has been no evidence of any impact of RPWs on clear up rate statistics.
Total recorded crime
The clear up rate for total recorded crime increased by 0.6 percentage points (based on unrounded figures) from 51.0% in 2018-19 to 51.5% in 2019-20. Clear up rates have been relatively stable over the last decade following a generally upward trend since 1976, the first year for which comparable clear up rates are available, as shown by Chart 18 below (Table 3).
There has been an impact on clear up rates for 2019-20 from the new crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act and the Coronavirus Acts, however the impact on overall clear up rates is small.
There now follows an analysis of clear up rates by crime group. It should be noted that rates of over 100% can occur when crimes are cleared up in a different reporting period to the year in which they were recorded.
1 Comparable clear up rates for the present crime groups are not available prior to 1976.
Non-sexual crimes of violence
The clear up rate for Non-sexual crimes of violence decreased by 1.6 percentage points from 73.3% in 2018-19 to 71.7% in 2019-20.
It should be noted that changes in clear up rates between 2018-19 and 2019-20 for Non-sexual crimes of violence will be in part due to the recording of 1,681 new crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, following its enactment on the 1st April 2019. The clear up rate for these 1,681 crimes was 68.9% in 2019-20. The clear up rate for all other Non-sexual crimes of violence collectively decreased from 73.2% in 2018-19 to 72.3% in 2019-20.
Between 2018-19 and 2019-20 clear up rates for Homicide etc. increased by 4.2 percentage points from 94.1% to 98.3%. Clear up rates for Attempted murder and serious assault increased over the same period, from 76.3% to 77.2%, whilst Robbery and Other violence fell by 2.0 percentage points from 72.4% to 70.5% and 4.7 percentage points from 65.3% to 60.6% respectively.
The clear up rate for Sexual crimes decreased by 1.8 percentage points in 2019-20, from 58.1% in 2018-19 to 56.3% in 2019-20. The clear up rate for 2019-20 is the lowest since 1979.
Clear up rates decreased in all categories of Sexual crime between 2018-19 and 2019-20 with the exception of Rape and attempted rape, which increased by 0.3 percentage points, from 52.7% to 53.1%. The rate for Sexual assault fell 2.4 percentage points from 57.7% to 55.3%, and the rate for Other sexual crimes fell by 1.5 percentage points from 59.5% to 58.0%. The rate for Crimes associated with prostitution fell by 10.6 percentage points, from 86.8% to 76.2%.
Crimes of dishonesty
The clear up rate for Crimes of dishonesty decreased by 1.2 percentage points in 2019-20, from 38.3% in 2018-19 to 37.1%. Despite slight fluctuation year to year, this clear up rate has remained relatively stable over the ten year period since 2010-11.
Clear up rates decreased for Theft of a motor vehicle, Shoplifting and Fraud from 2018-19 to 2019-20. All other categories saw an increase in clear up rates over the same period (including, for example Housebreaking which saw an increase of 1.9 percentage points from 26.4% to 28.3%).
Fire-raising, vandalism etc.
The clear up rate for Fire-raising, vandalism etc. increased by 0.6 percentage points in 2019-20, from to 25.9% in 2018-19 to 26.6%. Crimes of Fire-raising, vandalism etc. consistently have the lowest clear up rate of the five crime groups, although there have been consistent increases since 2014-15.
The clear up rate for Fire-raising decreased by 3.9 percentage points between 2018-19 and 2019-20, while the rate for Vandalism etc. increased by 0.9 percentage points.
Clear up rates for Other crimes were previously closer to 100% since these consist of many crimes for which someone is ‘caught in the act’, however there was a consistent decrease in clear up rates between 2013-14 and 2018-19. The clear up rate for Other crimes increased by 1.9 percentage points in 2019-20, from 89.0% to 90.9%.
The clear up rate for Crimes against public justice decreased by 0.6 percentage points, from 96.7% in 2018-19 to 96.0% in 2019-20. Clear up rates for all categories have decreased in the past year with the exception of Drugs, which has increased by 4.4 percentage points from 87.1% in 2018-19 to 91.6% in 2019-20.
The clear up rate for crimes associated with the Coronavirus restrictions was 100%. This is because these are crimes where someone is ‘caught in the act’ and are therefore cleared up at the time of the crime. As noted above, the small number of new crimes recorded under the coronavirus legislation were collected using a bespoke data request to Police Scotland. The corresponding cleared up crimes were collected using the same method.