Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland, 2012-13

Statistical bulletin on crimes and offences involving firearms recorded by the police in Scotland in 2012-13

4. Notes on statistics used in this bulletin

4.1 Data Returns

4.1.1 The statistics presented in this bulletin are derived from data returns submitted by the eight legacy 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. A data return is submitted for each incident where a crime or offence has allegedly involved a firearm.

4.1.2 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 17) which presents the totals for these offences based on Recorded Crime data returns.

4.1.3 It is possible that some of the inter‑police force area variations shown in Tables 14, 14a, 15 and 15a arise from differences in procedure or different police force interpretation.

4.1.4 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: £700.

Details of the calculation methodology are available on the Scottish

Government Crime and Justice website at:

4.2 Legislation

4.2.1 Contraventions of Scottish criminal law are divided for statistical purposes into crimes and offences. "Crime" is generally used for the more serious criminal acts; the less serious termed "offences", although the term "offence" may also be used in relation to serious breaches of criminal law. The distinction is made only for working purposes and the "seriousness" of the offence is generally related to the maximum sentence that can be imposed.

4.2.2 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.

4.2.3 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.

4.2.4 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.

4.3 Crimes and offences cleared up

4.3.1 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.

4.3.2 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.

4.4 Statistical issues

4.4.1 Data returns for incidents that occurred in previous years can occasionally be submitted by police forces with their returns for the current year. This will result in revisions been made to figures previously published in this bulletin series.

4.4.2 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.

4.4.3 From 2005-06 onwards, the figures reported in this bulletin 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.

4.4.4 It was also agreed with all police forces 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.

4.4.5 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, 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 Common assault and Breach of the peace etc.

4.4.6 During the production of the tables contained in this bulletin, it was discovered that 34 offences that were recorded in 2005-06 had been coded incorrectly. The coding error has been corrected in the tables contained in this bulletin. As a result, there have been minor changes to the distribution of offences between the offences groups for the 2005-06 data. The changes are as follows: offences of Vandalism have increased by 33 offences, offences of Reckless conduct with firearms have increased by one offence and 'Other crimes and offences' have decreased by 34 offences.

4.4.7 Prior to 2012-13, Lothian and Borders Police included incidents within their recorded crime and offences involving a firearm data return which indicated a possible firearm had been used, for example; smashing window by firing air pellet or similar at glass. This was recognised as inaccurate recording and instruction was given to the effect that where there was no evidence to substantiate a firearm had been used i.e. crime witnessed, bullet found etc., the report would not be tagged with a firearms marker. This will account for some of the decrease in the number of firearm offences recorded by Lothian and Borders Police in 2012-13 compared to previous years.

4.4.8 To calculate the figures shown in Chart 2 and Table 2, the total number of offences involving a firearm are calculated as a percentage of all crimes and offences recorded by the police. These figures are derived from the Scottish Government's 'Recorded Crime in Scotland' statistical bulletin series. The figures are provided in Table A.

4.4.9 The main firearm is that which inflicts the most serious injury or damage. In cases where no injury or damage is 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.

4.4.10 Details of the age and gender of the main victim (Tables 10 and 10a) 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.

4.4.11 Details of the age and gender of the main accused (Tables 12 and 13) 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.

4.4.12 The figures provided in Table 16 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.

4.4.13 There have been minor changes to the categories included in the tables in this bulletin compared to previous bulletins in this series. The changes were made to give a clearer presentation of the data due to the fact that 'other' categories were starting to dominate certain breakdowns. The changes are as follows:

  • Within the offences categories, 'Other crimes and offences' has been separated into 'Breach of the peace etc.' and 'Other crimes and offences'.
  • Within the location categories, 'other locations' has been separated into 'shop' and 'other locations'.

Table A: Selected crimes and offences1 recorded by the police, Scotland, 2003-04 to 2012-13


Type of Crime/Offence 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
Homicide2 107 142 95 121 118 99 79 93 93 65
Attempted murder 740 828 710 820 711 710 560 573 503 354
Serious assault3 6,625 6,775 6,320 6,525 6,000 5,762 5,061 4,920 4,190 3,289
Robbery 4,161 3,736 3,553 3,578 3,064 2,963 2,496 2,557 2,244 1,832
Vandalism 95,663 119,855 120,340 121,676 109,855 100,880 85,576 74,420 67,984 53,699
Common assault3,4 57,355 73,711 72,281 78,167 73,523 74,130 72,212 70,786 69,253 60,955


1. For further information on the selected crimes and offences recorded by the police included in this table, please see Note 4.5.1.

2. Includes Murder and Culpable homicide (common law). It excludes Causing death by dangerous driving, Causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, Causing death by careless driving, Illegal driver involved in a fatal accident and Corporate homicide.

3. For the distinction between Serious assault and Common assault, please see Note 4.5.2.

4. Common assault includes the offences of Common assault and Common assault of an emergency worker.

4.5 Classification

4.5.1 For the purposes of statistical reporting, the Scottish Government has a classification list containing about 475 crime and offence codes. These are grouped in this bulletin as follows:

Category Notes


  • Murder
  • Culpable homicide (common law)
Attempted murder Attempted murder
Serious assault Serious assault
Robbery Robbery and assault with intent to rob


  • Vandalism
  • Reckless Damage
  • Malicious mischief
Reckless conduct with firearms

Reckless conduct with firearms

Firearms Act 1968 offences Firearm with intent to endanger life, commit crime or resist arrest
Common assault


  • Common assault
  • Common assault of an emergency worker
Breach of the peace etc.


  • Breach of the peace
  • Threatening or abusive behaviour
Other crimes and offences


  • Possession of an offensive weapon
  • Poaching and game laws
  • Deer offences
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Offences involving animals
  • Offences involving birds

4.5.2 In Scotland, assault is a common law offence. In order to distinguish between serious and common assaults, police forces use a common definition of what a serious assault is, namely:

"An assault or attack in which the victim sustains injury resulting in detention in hospital as an inpatient, for the treatment of that injury, or any of the following injuries whether or not detained in hospital:

  • Fractures (the breaking or cracking of a bone. Note - nose is cartilage not bone, so a 'broken nose' should not be classified unless it meets one of the other criteria)
  • Internal injuries
  • Severe concussion
  • Lacerations requiring sutures which may lead to impairment or disfigurement
  • Any other injury which may lead to impairment or disfigurement."

4.6 UK Statistics Authority

4.6.1 The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

  • meet identified user needs;
  • are well explained and readily accessible;
  • are produced according to sound methods; and
  • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.

Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

The Assessment Report, which was published in June 2011, can be accessed via the following link:

4.7 Other

4.7.1 Recorded offences involving the use of firearms statistics for England and Wales are published by the Office for National Statistics in the 'Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences' statistical bulletin series. Prior to the release of the 2011-12 data, the recorded offences involving the use of firearms statistics for England and Wales were published in the 'Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence: Supplementary Volume 2 to Crime in England and Wales' statistical bulletin series.

The latest bulletin for England and Wales contained information for the financial year 2011-12 and was published on 7 February 2013. The bulletin can be found at:

Recorded offences involving the use of firearms data for England and Wales for 2012-13 are scheduled for publication in early 2014.

4.7.2 Population data are derived from relevant mid-year population estimates prepared by the National Records of Scotland:

4.7.3 Only a limited selection of tables are included in this bulletin. However, further analysis of recorded crimes and offences involving firearms statistics can be supplied upon request. This includes available information relating to a different time period than that covered in this bulletin. In certain cases, a fee may be charged for additional information. For details of what can be provided, please telephone Justice Analytical Services on 0131 244 2635 or e-mail

4.7.4 The percentage figures given in tables and charts have been independently rounded, so they may not always sum to the relevant sub-totals or totals.

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

- = nil.
~ = percentage less than 0.05%.
* = percentage less than 0.5%.
n/r = not reported (a percentage change figure is not reported if the denominator is less than ten as any resulting figure may be misleading).


Email: Neil Henderson

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