User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland

Provides detailed information on the Recorded Crime in Scotland statistical bulletin series. It is designed to be a useful reference guide with explanatory notes regarding issues and classifications which are crucial to the production and presentation of crime statistics in Scotland.

18. Clear up rates

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. motoring 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.

Certain motor vehicle offences are not always recorded in cases where the police are unable to clear up the offence, for example, speeding offences where the driver is untraceable. Clear up rates for motor vehicle offences in these circumstances are artificial. Thus, clear up rates for the Group 7: Motor Vehicle Offences are not included in the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin.

Police Scotland have used a bespoke data collection to capture information on the number of new crimes recorded under coronavirus related legislation and as a result it has not been possible to obtain information on the number of Coronavirus restrictions crimes which have been cleared up. These crimes are therefore not included in the clear up rate analysis. It is likely that the vast majority of these crimes were cleared up since many of these crimes are offences for which the offender is ‘caught in the act’ (similar to Motor vehicle offences).

Crimes and offences are included against the year in which they are recorded by the police. This is not necessarily the year in which the crime or offence took place, the year in which the accused is brought to trial for the crime or offence, or the year in which the case is finally disposed of by the courts.

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, i.e. 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. This means that clear up rates in excess of 100% can arise in a given year. Clear up rates are calculated as follows:

(number of crimes cleared up in year y / total number of crimes recorded in year y) * (100 / 1)

Prior to the Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2014-15 bulletin, statistics on clear up rates were presented on a rounded basis, as they are only an approximation of the amount of crime cleared up each year (given the imperfect nature of this measure as outlined above). From the 2014-15 bulletin onwards, clear up rates are presented to one-decimal place. Whilst this is still only an approximation of the amount of crime cleared up, this change will provide more clarity on how clear up rates vary over time.

The best method to measure the count of crimes cleared up 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 obtained, it is not possible to do this at present.

Police Scotland are working on the development of a single crime recording system which when available, may open up the potential for more individual level crime data to be available. This may make it possible to obtain a more accurate count of crimes cleared up which have been recorded in that same period. This is something we will investigate with Police Scotland and consult users on in due course.

A new system of recorded warnings – known as the Recorded Police Warning (RPW) scheme, was introduced by Police Scotland on 11 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 2020-21 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.

Statistics on recorded crime clear up rates remain Official Statistics due to a lack of external assurance of these data. As mentioned in Chapter 5, Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) made a recommendation that the Scottish Government should consider next steps required to meet the requirements for National Statistics designation. The designation of clear up rates will be revisited by the OSR once we have undertaken further work.



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