This bulletin presents statistics on the number of crimes and offences recorded by Police Scotland. These are derived from data held within the Source for Evidence Based Policing (SEBP), a data repository used and maintained by Police Scotland.
What changes were made to this year's report?
No significant changes have been made to the structure of this year's report. Some new crime and offence codes have been introduced this year to reflect the passing of new legislation (for example the Offensive Weapons Act 2019), however in each case the number of incidents recorded in 2022-23 for those new codes has either been zero or negligible.
What is Recorded Crime?
Recorded crime covers crimes which are recorded by the police. Not all crimes are reported to, and therefore recorded by the police. This means that recorded crime statistics does not measure all criminal activity. However, they do provide a measure of the volume of criminal activity with which the police are faced.
What is the difference between crimes and offences?
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 number of offences recorded by the police generally tends to be affected more by police activity and operational decisions than the numbers of crimes.
There are over 500 types of crimes and offences recorded by police in Scotland. To present these in a meaningful way, they are combined into distinct groups and categories. There are six crime groups and three offence groups. These groups are made up of 50 categories, referred to as the 'Top 50'.
Figure 1: Breakdown of crime and offence groups
- Non sexual crimes of violence
- Sexual crimes
- Crimes of dishonesty
- Damage and reckless behaviour
- Crimes against society
- Coronavirus restriction crimes (new group since 2019 20)
- Antisocial offences
- Miscellaneous offences
- Road traffic offences
What changes were made to the recording of crime in recent years?
There have been several changes in recent years that have had an impact on the recording of crime. These reflect either the enactment of new legislation or procedural changes made by the SCRB (Annex 3).
Some of the changes that have occurred in the latest five years (2018-19 to 2022-23) include:
- The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which came into force on 1 April 2019
- The Coronavirus Act 2020 and Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, implemented on 25 March and 27 March 2020 respectively
- A procedural change made to the recording of international crime, from 1 April 2020
- The implementation of the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021, which came into effect from 24 August 2021
- The enactment of various sections of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 in June 2022 and March 2023
Some of the above amendments led to changes in how crimes are recorded but did not change the volume of crime being recorded. For example, before implementation of the Protection of Workers Act, any assault of a retail worker would have been recorded as either a Common or Serious assault. After implementation, such cases are now specifically recorded as either Common or Serious assault of a retail worker. In another example, some incidents that were recorded as Stalking prior to the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 coming into force, may now be recorded as crimes under the Domestic Abuse Act.
Other amendments did result in new and additional crimes being recorded within these statistics, following their implementation (for example the crimes recorded under Coronavirus related legislation).
Information on the recording of crimes affected by the above changes is provided in the relevant chapters of this bulletin. The User Guide provides more detailed information on these and earlier changes to the recording of crime.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted recorded crime?
The nationwide lockdowns and other measures put in place to limit social contact during the COVID-19 pandemic are very likely to have had a significant impact on the type and volume of crime recorded since March 2020. A larger impact was seen during 2020-21, and to a lesser extent 2021-22. The final legal restrictions were lifted in April 2022, suggesting a much more limited impact in 2022-23. However, some caution is advised before necessarily attributing all of the changes seen since March 2020 to the pandemic. For example, longer term trends in some types of offending, which existed prior to COVID-19, may remain a factor.
All legal Coronavirus restrictions in Scotland were lifted in April 2022, and this year's bulletin reports no crimes being recorded under specific Coronavirus legislation in 2022-23. There were 20,976 such crimes recorded in 2020-21, which reduced significantly to 3,913 in 2021-22. These crimes are included within the total recorded crime figure for Scotland for these years, though are presented separately to the five main crime groups.
How do Recorded Crime statistics compare to the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey?
The other main source of crime statistics in Scotland is the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS), a national survey of adults (aged 16 and over) living in private households, which asks respondents about their experiences and perceptions of crime.
The survey provides a complementary measure of crime to police recorded crime statistics and allows a wider assessment of the overall level of crime victimisation, its characteristics, and likelihood of experiencing crime. The SCJS estimates that 40% of all SCJS crime in 2019-20 came to the attention of the police, a proportion which is stable over time. This confirms that not all crimes are reported to, and therefore recorded by, the police.
Data for 2019-20 is the latest available from the SCJS, due to face-to-face interviewing being paused in March 2020 to support social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the SCJS and police recorded crime show a long-term downward trend in overall comparable crime, with a more stable pattern over the shorter term. Specifically, the survey found that the volume of crime in Scotland, including incidents not reported to the police, fell by 46% since 2008-09 (from an estimated 1,045,000 incidents to 563,000 by 2019-20) and has remained stable compared to 2018-19. Similarly, crimes recorded by the police in 2019-20 decreased by 32% since 2008-09 and remained stable compared to 2018-19.
To fill the evidence gap created by the SCJS suspension, previous respondents to the SCJS were re-contacted by phone for a one-off survey of experiences and perceptions of crime, safety and policing in Scotland during the pandemic – the Scottish Victimisation Telephone Survey (SVTS) 2020. Further detail on the analytical comparisons between recorded crime, the SVTS and the SCJS is provided in Chapter 5 of the 2020-21 Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin.
Future Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletins will provide updated comparisons with SCJS findings when these become available. The next publication, for the year ending December 2022, will be published in November 2023.
The User Guide provides an overview of the main differences users may want to note when making comparisons between Recorded Crime statistics and the SCJS.
What comparisons can be made with other data sources?
When considering crime data across the UK, recorded crime statistics for England & Wales and Northern Ireland are not directly comparable with those in Scotland. The main principles for when a crime should be recorded are similar in all four nations. However, there are various differences between the respective Counting Rules, which specify each nation's approach for counting the number of crimes that should be recorded as part of any single incident. Furthermore, differences in legislation and common law also have an impact on the comparability of recorded crime statistics between Scotland and the other UK nations.
Further detail on the comparability of crime data can be found in the User Guide.
Some 'Data comparisons' are presented within this bulletin. These are clearly marked throughout the text and include information from a range of statistics (e.g. homicide, hospital admissions etc.) which cannot be directly compared to police recorded crime but are useful to understand the wider context.
Where can you find the data from this report?
All tables referred to throughout the bulletin are available in the 'Supporting documents' Excel workbook. The workbook includes an 'Introduction' sheet, with information on how to navigate the tables, alongside a 'Notes' sheet, with relevant details to assist users when reading and interpreting results. The Excel workbook mostly covers data for the last ten years.
The data is also available on statistics.gov.scot : Recorded Crimes and Offences and statistics.gov.scot : Crime Clear up Rates. These include data back to 1996-97.
What is known about the quality of this data?
Annex 2 provides information on the quality of the data used to produce the statistics presented in this bulletin. This includes information on the results of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) Crime Audit 2020, which assessed the extent to which police recording practices complied with the Scottish Crime Recording Standard and Counting Rules.
What are these statistics used for?
Statistics on recorded crime and offences inform the Scottish Government's Vision for Justice in Scotland. This was published in February 2022 and sets out a transformative vision for the whole justice system in Scotland. The 2022 strategy outlines how the Scottish Government will transform the justice system, through recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Further information on users and uses of the statistics is provided in the User Guide.
This bulletin is useful for longer term time series analysis and presents a detailed commentary on crime and offences recorded during the 12 month period of 1 April to 31 March. To provide users with more timely data, which can help to identify any shorter-term changes, the SCRB approved the introduction of a new quarterly release of recorded crime National Statistics. These present findings for the latest rolling 12-month period, of which the year-ending 31 March edition will continue to be this longer term annual bulletin.
The next quarterly release, for the year ending 30 June 2023 (Q1 2023), is scheduled for publication in August 2023. More information on the new quarterly release is available in the User Guide.
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