Recorded Crimes And Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland, 2010-11

Firearm offences 2010-11

This document is part of a collection

5. Annex: Statistical Notes

5.1 Data Returns

5.1.1 The statistics presented in this bulletin are derived from data returns submitted by Scottish police forces in respect of recorded crimes and offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been involved or where a firearm was stolen. The data return that was used to collect the statistics for this bulletin was revised in January 1993. The major change involved moving from an offence-based return to an incident-based return. In incidents where several crimes or offences occur, each crime or offence within the incident is counted.

5.1.2 A data return is submitted for each incident where a crime or offence has allegedly involved a firearm. Miscellaneous firearm offences relating mainly to the possession, handling and distribution of firearms and ammunition are excluded from the main tables. Prior to 2005-06, data returns for this bulletin did include miscellaneous firearm offences, but in discussion with police forces it became apparent that not all such incidents were being included. It was therefore decided to remove such incidents from the main tables and to provide a separate table ( Table 15) which presents the totals for these offences based on Recorded Crime data returns.

5.1.3 It is possible that some of the inter-police force area variations shown in Table 13 and Table 13A arise from differences in procedure or different police force interpretation. The move to an incident-based rather than an individual offence-based recording system revealed some undercounting of offences involving firearms in years prior to 1994.

5.1.4 Under the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, the estimated costs of responding to statistical surveys and data collection are to be published.

The estimated cost of compliance for supplying and validating the data for this bulletin is: £1,000.

Details of the calculation methodology are available on the Scottish Government Crime and Justice website at:

5.2 Legislation

5.2.1 Contraventions of Scottish criminal law are divided for statistical purposes into crimes and offences. The term 'crime' is generally used for more serious criminal acts, with the less serious being termed 'offences' (although the term 'offence' may also be used in relation to serious breaches of criminal law).

5.2.2 Following the Dunblane incident in 1996, changes to the existing firearms legislation were introduced to enhance public safety. As a result, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 (the '1997 Act') was implemented and thereafter the Firearms (Amendment)(No.2) Act 1997 (the '1997 (No.2) Act'). Under the 1997 Act, all pistols (otherwise referred to as "handguns") over .22 calibre were banned with effect from 1 October 1997. The 1997 (No.2) Act came into effect from 1 March 1998. A number of types of handgun were exempted from the 1997 (No.2) Act, including muzzle-loading guns, shot pistols, slaughtering instruments, firearms used for the humane killing of animals, trophies of war, etc.

5.2.3 The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 raised the age for owning an air weapon from 14 years to 17 years; created a new offence of possessing an air weapon or imitation weapon in a public place without reasonable excuse; banned future import and sale of air weapons using self-contained air cartridge systems and licensed those already held. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 also imposed minimum sentences for the illegal possession of a prohibited firearm.

5.2.4 In relation to individuals aged under 18 years, the following legislation has been introduced:

  • The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 raised the minimum age at which a person may purchase or hire either an air weapon or ammunition for an air weapon to 18 years.
  • The EU Weapons Directive 91/477/EEC made it an offence to sell or let on hire a firearm or ammunition to a person under the age of 18 years.

5.3 Crimes and offences cleared up

5.3.1 The definition of 'cleared up' was revised with effect from 1 April 1996. Previously, a crime or offence was regarded as being cleared up if one or more offenders was apprehended, cited, warned or traced for it. This was revised as follows:

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.

5.3.2 For some types of crimes and offences the case is cleared up immediately as the offender is caught in the act. 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.

5.4 Statistical issues

5.4.1 Occasionally, late data returns are submitted by police forces which may result in revisions to the next issue of this statistical bulletin.

5.4.2 Population data are derived from relevant mid-year population estimates prepared by the General Register Office for Scotland:

5.4.3 To calculate the figures provided in Table 2, the total number of offences involving a firearm are calculated as a percentage of all crimes and offences recorded by the police. This data is derived from the Scottish Government's Recorded Crime statistical bulletin series and is provided in the table below (

Type of Crime 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11
Homicide 111 123 107 142 95 121 118 99 79 93
Attempted murder 721 760 740 828 710 820 711 710 560 573
Serious assault 6,685 6,654 6,625 6,775 6,320 6,525 6,000 5,762 5,034 4,920
Robbery 4,592 4,636 4,161 3,736 3,553 3,578 3,064 2,963 2,496 2,557
Vandalism 90,203 91,333 95,663 119,855 120,340 121,676 109,855 100,880 85,576 74,420
Minor assault 55,392 54,956 57,355 73,711 72,281 78,167 73,523 74,130 72,212 70,786

5.4.4 The main firearm is that which inflicts the most serious injury or damage. In cases where no injury or damage are caused, the firearm that is considered to potentially be the most dangerous is treated as the main weapon. The 'other' firearms category includes weapons such as starting guns and ball bearing guns. From 1988, crossbows were included in the 'other' category. The 'imitation' firearms category includes replica and imitation weapons.

5.4.5 Details of the age and sex of the main victim are collected only for offences in which fatal or non-fatal injury is caused. The main victim is the person most seriously injured. Cases involving injury to animals are recorded under the category 'damage to property' rather than 'injury' - which is reserved solely for the purpose of recording injuries to persons.

5.4.6 Details of the age and sex of the main accused are collected for offences that are cleared up. In offences involving injury or damage, the main accused is the person who inflicts the most serious injury or damage. In other instances, it is taken to be the oldest person. From 2001 to 2003, there was an overstatement of crimes cleared up due to the inclusion of some offences where no accused had been identified.

5.4.7 The figures provided in Table 14 for stolen firearms are not included elsewhere in this bulletin. The information reflects solely those incidents where firearms were stolen and not whether they were used to perpetrate a crime or offence.

5.4.8 There have been various changes to the way in which the type of firearm involved in offences has been recorded over the years. From 2005-06 onwards, all police forces agreed to identify weapons where possible, resulting in an increase in the alleged use of air weapons (and other identified weapons) and a decrease in the alleged use of unidentified firearms. It was also agreed that from 2006-07 onwards, all forces would include incidents involving air weapons where no injury or damage was caused. These incidents had previously been omitted from the bulletin. It is thought that this change has increased both the total number of offences of reckless conduct with a firearm and the total number of offences involving air weapons.

5.4.9 From 2005-06 onwards, the figures reported in this bulletin are expected to provide more extensive coverage of those crimes and offences recorded as involving a firearm. This follows discussions with police forces regarding the scope of the data collection and clarification of what should be included in the statistical return. This clarification is not thought to have impacted on major crimes and offences, but is considered to have resulted in an increase in some of the more minor categories.

5.4.10 The increase in offences involving a firearm in 2006-07 is thought to be partly due to the aforementioned clarification of the counting rules which led to the inclusion of more minor crimes that had perhaps been excluded in the past. The scope of what constitutes a firearm was also clarified as some police forces had previously not included incidents involving weapons such as taser guns and mace and pepper sprays, which are all covered under Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 (as amended). This clarification appears to have particularly affected figures for minor assault and 'other crimes and offences'.

5.5 Classification

5.5.1 For the purposes of statistical reporting, the Scottish Government has a classification list containing over 360 crime and offence codes. These are grouped in this bulletin as follows:

Category Notes
Homicide - comprises murder and culpable homicide
Attempted murder
Serious assault - an assault is classified as serious if the victim sustained an injury resulting in detention in hospital as an in-patient or any of the following injuries whether or not he was detained in hospital: fractures, internal injuries, severe concussion, loss of consciousness, lacerations requiring sutures which may lead to impairment or disfigurement or any other injury which may lead to impairment or disfigurement.
Robbery - includes assault with intent to rob
Vandalism - includes malicious mischief
Reckless conduct with firearms
Firearms Act 1968 offences - includes possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, commit crime or resist arrest
Minor assault
Other crimes and offences - includes carrying an offensive weapon, Prevention of Crimes Act 1871, poaching and protection of wildlife legislation.

5.6 Other

5.6.1 The following symbols are used throughout the tables in this bulletin:

- = nil.
* = integer below 0.5%.
n/r = not reported (a percentage change figure is not reported if the denominator is less than 10 as any resulting figure may be misleading).

5.6.2 Only a limited selection of tables can be included in any statistical bulletin. Further analyses of recorded crimes and offences involving firearms statistics can be supplied on request once the bulletin is published. In certain cases a fee is charged. Figures for past years are available in previous statistical bulletins, which can be found on the Scottish Government website.

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