5. Further information on statistics used in this bulletin
5.1 Statement on Data Quality
The statistics presented in this bulletin are derived from data returns submitted to Police Scotland. Unlike other Justice Analytical Services (JAS) bulletins which have seen changes to the way data is collected arising from the merger of Scotland’s police forces, this publication retains a familiar data process. The main difference is that Police Scotland, and not JAS, collect data returns from the divisions in respect of offences involving a firearm. A reporting officer based within each division of Police Scotland runs a series of queries on their individual Crime Management Systems to identify crime reports which include firearms. These records are then manually inputted into the data return.
A full process map of how data is collected for this publication is shown in Chart 6, starting from incident reporting by police officers at an operational level to the publication of this bulletin.
Not all such crimes and offences are reported to the police. The extent of under-reporting is likely to vary considerably according to the seriousness of the crime or offence; for example, armed robberies are much more likely to be reported to the police than malicious damage caused by the firing of an air weapon. Moreover, the propensity of the public to report crimes and offences to the police is influenced by a number of factors and may therefore change over time; thus trends in the number of crimes and offences recorded may differ from trends in the number of crimes and offences actually committed. For further information, the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey for 2012/13 includes analysis on why some crimes are not reported to the police.
This bulletin reports on offences involving firearms that are both reported to the police and subsequently recorded as a crime.
One area that could affect the accuracy of the statistics reported in this bulletin is the potential for mistakes in the recording of crime at an operation-level, which could create errors in the Crime Management System (CMS). The CMS should contain a record of all crime reports in Scotland and is audited by the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS). On 12 November 2014, HMICS published Crime Audit 2014. This audit, the largest into crime recording undertaken by HMICS, examined records in six categories, four of which were related to specific crime types (including violent crime and housebreaking). It audited incidents reported between 1 April 2013 and 30 June 2014, and was the first crime audit in which a timeliness test was applied.
Chart 6: Offences involving the alleged use of a firearm, data collection strategy for 2013-14
The HMICS Audit found no systematic data quality issues around the recording of crimes and offences. One of the key findings from the report was that “the quality of most incident and crime recording decision by Police Scotland is good… 92% of incidents were closed correctly and 94% of crime was counted and classified correctly”. The findings from this detailed audit by HMICS provide users with the information on which to have confidence in the quality of recorded-crime related statistics in Scotland.
A second source of potential error is that different divisions may interpret the data returns they receive differently through time and different processes within divisions may also give rise to inter police area variations. In the course of our validation checks we found that less than 1% of cases contained an error that resulted in a change to the headline counts (e.g., a domestic housebreaking was wrongly coded as a firearm offence). A slightly larger proportion (approx. 7%) of cases had minor errors that affect other variables (this usually related to the interpretations of “how the firearm was used” field). It may be, then, that a number of specific items on a data return may have uncertainty associated with them involving clerical errors which pass our validation check (e.g., the type of weapon used could be completed incorrectly but pass our validation checks). This can only be solved iteratively through feedback with Police Scotland. Overall, it is likely that geographic comparisons are more susceptible to these kinds of data issues (Tables 14 and 14a).
Some errors in our data collection may have a bearing on certain variables that are not detected through our validation checks, but the impact on headline counts is not believed to undermine broad trends outlined in the bulletin. Data issues uncovered in the past for this publication are detailed in the notes and footnotes of the appropriate tables. Officials from Justice Analytical Services will continue to work with Police Scotland colleagues to identify any additional actions that could ensure further improvements in the quality of the information presented on firearms offences.
5.2 Data Returns
5.2.1 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 16) which presents the totals for these offences based on Recorded Crime data returns.
5.2.2 Under the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, the estimated costs of responding to statistical surveys and data collection are to be published. The previous bulletin (for 2012-13) was estimated to cost £700 for supplying and validating data. As outlined earlier, changes have been made to the collection of these statistics following the formation of Police Scotland. Officials from Justice Analytical Services are working with Police Scotland colleagues to determine an updated figure in light of these changes.
Details of the calculation methodology are available on the Scottish
Government Crime and Justice website at:
5.3.1 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.
5.3.2 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.
5.3.3 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.
5.3.4 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.
5.4 Crimes and offences cleared up
5.4.1 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.
5.4.2 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.
5.4.3 Clear up rates are calculated as follows:
5.5 Statistical issues
5.5.1 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 being made to figures previously published in this bulletin series.
5.5.2 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.
5.5.3 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.
5.5.4 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.
5.5.5 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.
5.5.6 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.
5.5.7 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.
5.5.8 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.
5.5.9 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.
5.5.10 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.
5.5.11 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.
5.5.12 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, 2004-05 to 2013-14 Number
|Type of Crime/Offence||2004-05||2005-06||2006-07||2007-08||2008-09||2009-10||2010-11||2011-12||2012-13||2013-14|
1. For further information on the selected crimes and offences recorded by the police included in this table, please see Note 5.6.1.
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 5.6.2.
4. Common assault includes the offences of Common assault and Common assault of an emergency worker.
5.6.1 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:
Robbery and assault with intent to rob
Reckless conduct with firearms
Reckless conduct with firearms
Firearms Act 1968 offences
Firearm with intent to endanger life, commit crime or resist arrest
Breach of the peace etc.
Other crimes and offences
5.6.2 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.”
5.7 Statistics Designation and the UK Statistics Authority
5.7.1 The United Kingdom Statistics Authority (UKSA) has agreed with the Scottish Government’s Chief Statistician that the 2013-14 statistics on “Recorded Crime and Offences Involving Firearms” are published as Official rather than National Statistics. This is to ensure consistency with the publication of “Recorded Crime in Scotland”, as the Recorded Crimes and Offences involving firearms data are based on the same source of information as Police Recorded Crime data.
“Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms” data will continue to be published as Official Statistics until such time as the designation of the overall “Recorded Crime” publication changes. At this point the position on the classification of the “Recorded Crime and Offences Involving Firearms” bulletin will be reviewed.
The 2013-14 “Recorded Crime in Scotland” bulletin includes further information on the range of actions being undertaken as part of the UKSA Assessment of these data to increase the information being provided to users to aid their understanding of recorded crime statistics and the quality assurance processes undertaken by relevant bodies with police recorded crime information.
5.8.1 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 JusticeAnalysts@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.
5.8.2 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.
5.8.3 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).
5.9 Comparator data
5.9.1 Country comparisons should be made with some caution as each country's statistics are based on separate collection systems with their own definitions for what constitutes an offence involving a firearm. The Office for National Statistics publishes information on offences involving firearms in England and Wales. Chapter 3 in Crime Statistics, Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences 2013-14, released in February 2015, includes information on offences involving firearms. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/crime-stats/crime-statistics/focus-on-violent-crime-and-sexual-offences--2013-14/index.html
5.9.2 The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) is a survey of public experiences and perceptions of crime in Scotland. The 2012/13 survey is the fourth sweep of the current guise of the SCJS, with the first being conducted in 2008/09. The survey involves interviews with adults (aged 16 or over) who live in private residential addresses in Scotland.
5.9.3 Only certain categories of crime covered by the SCJS are directly comparable with police recorded crime statistics. These categories are collectively referred to as comparable crime. Comparable crime can be broken down into the following three crime groups.
- Acquisitive crime: comprising housebreaking, theft of a motor vehicle and bicycle theft;
- Vandalism: including both vehicle and property vandalism;
- Violent crime: comprising assault and robbery.
Email: Alastair Greig