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.

26. Consultations

The Justice Analytical Services (JAS) division of the Scottish Government has a strong history of consulting with the users and stakeholders of its statistical publications. This is consistent with the guidance laid out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

Users of recorded crime statistics will be informed of the details of forthcoming consultation activity via the ScotStat network. To ensure you receive up to date information on recorded crime or any other statistical publications, please register your interests by subscribing to ScotStat.

26.1 User / Stakeholder Consultation 2021

A consultation was conducted from October - December 2021. The purpose of the consultation was to gather views on how best to ensure that Scotland's recorded crime statistics remain of high value, through their relevance to those who use them, and their capacity to support understanding of the important issues relating to crime in Scotland (alongside other complementary sources of official statistics and research), this built on evidence collected in the 2019 consultation.

The consultation was split into three parts;

  • Part One: Proposal to introduce new crime groups in 2022
  • Part Two: Dissemination of Recorded Crime Statistics
  • Part Three: Police Activity Statistics

A summary of the responses to each of the sections is provided below, with more detail available in the Summary of responses publication.

26.1.1 Part One: Proposal to introduce new crime groups in 2022

Part One of the consultation built on earlier engagement with users in 2019 (see section 25.2), where they were asked to consider an alternative way to group and present recorded crime statistics. The 2021 consultation aimed to conclude the discussion through asking users if they had a preference between two options, one which retained fewer broader groups and a second that was more granular, with 16 groups.

Of the 17 written responses, seven did not note a preference. Six noted support for the granular approach, with some stating this appeared clearer and more transparent. Three responses preferred retaining fewer broader groups, noting that the broader groups with more categories would provide more concise and uncluttered headline figures, while ensuring detailed information is available from the categories. Finally, one response stated a preference for the more granular option, but keeping sexual crimes as one group.

Of those users who expressed an opinion on the grouping structure at the consultation events, most favoured a granular approach as a way to have more detailed information.

26.1.2 Part Two: Dissemination of Recorded Crime Statistics

Part Two of the consultation sought users' views on the way both the annual National Statistics and monthly Official Statistics on recorded crime in Scotland are presented and disseminated. This included questions on the content of these publications, their frequency and any potential analytical developments.

  • Where an opinion was expressed, respondents were all supportive of the commentary for the annual statistics as a valuable way of understanding and contextualising the findings. While some were in favour of reducing the length of the bulletin, with more background information being provided in a separate User Guide, others retained a preference for a comprehensive commentary.
  • Where an opinion was given, users found the information on cyber-crime in the 2020-21 bulletin useful.
  • Many also expressed interest in the potential development of reports that rotate around certain themes, alongside a more general summary of long term trends on recorded crime.
  • Most respondents were also in favour of having Excel format tables, and removing them from the bulletin.
  • The clear majority of respondents who provided an opinion on analysis comparing police recorded crime statistics with the SCJS said that they found this useful.
  • Where a preference was expressed, respondents were in favour of reducing the frequency of the monthly statistics publications, suggesting quarterly releases would best suit their needs.
  • Of those respondents who provided an answer on the use of the User Guide, they referred to this as a useful document which complements the statistical bulletin

26.1.3 Part Three: Police Activity Statistics

Part Three of the consultation invited users to provide feedback on what other areas of policing in Scotland they would like to see the potential production of new statistics on, including how such data should be made available. For example, these may include the volume and type of incidents recorded by the police and information on incidents that involve a missing person.

Almost all who provided a response to this part of the consultation said that they would find the production of new Official Statistics on incidents recorded by Police Scotland of value.

There was interest in finding out more about what type of information could be produced in relation to incidents, and it was acknowledged that there would be a need to assess any limitations of this data.

26.1.4 Outcome

After considering the responses to this consultation, along with other feedback received from the associated events and feedback from the previous consultation. The Scottish Crime Recording Board approved a number of changes to the recorded crime statistics. These included:

  • the current set of crime and offence groups will be replaced with a new set based on Option A (as described in the consultation). The 2021/22 annual Recorded Crime in Scotland National Statistics will be the first to reflect this change.
  • common assault will be reclassified as a crime rather than an offence
  • stalking will be reclassified as a crime rather than an offence
  • common assault will be split into common assault with injury and common assault without injury, with the timing to be confirmed for the introduction of this change
  • the annual Recorded Crime in Scotland National Statistics bulletin will be published in June, brought forward from September
  • the annual Recorded Crime in Scotland National Statistics bulletin will be redesigned to ensure it meets accessibility requirements and statistical best practice
  • the Recorded Crime Monthly Official Statistics will be discontinued following publication of the March 2022 bulletin in April 2022
  • the Monthly Official Statistics will then be replaced with a quarterly release of National Statistics, which will present the latest rolling 12-month period. Crime Grouping Structure

A revised crime and offence classification has been implemented. This retains a similar number of groups to the old structure, but provides more detail at the second level of disaggregation, with a 'top-50' category structure.

Additional tables will continue to be included within the statistics which will break down categories further for particular types of crimes where there is a known user interest. The new crime code classification is presented in section 16.3, with section 16.2.19 outlining the changes which have been made compared to the previous year. Dissemination of Recorded Crime Statistics

The Scottish Crime Recording Board approved the discontinuation of the Monthly Official Statistics, with the final publication covering March 2022 (released in April 2022).

A quarterly release of National Statistics, which will present the latest rolling 12-month period, will be introduced from August 2022. The intention is that the first three quarterly products released each year (those covering the latest year ending June, September and December) would be;

  • Similar in length to the monthly publications,
  • Will report data for a rolling year, ending with the most recent quarter, and
  • Will also include a 5-year rolling time series.

The quarterly release that corresponds with a full financial year (covering year ending March or Q4) will in effect become the new annual statistics, with longer time series analysis and additional commentary. This approach brings Scotland broadly into line with England & Wales, and their quarterly releases of recorded crime statistics by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

As part of the transition to a quarterly release schedule, and to ensure that data is published in as timely a manner as possible - the Annual National Statistics publication has been brought forward to June, rather than September.

The planned publication timetable for the new quarterly releases of National Statistics is shown below.

Year ending

30 June (Q1)

Publication Month


Year ending

30 September (Q2)

Publication Month


Year ending

31 December (Q3)

Publication Month


Year ending

31 March (Q4) (Annual bulletin)

Publication Month


The 2021 consultation also asked for feedback on potential future developments for statistics on recorded crime and police activity. This evidence will be used to inform longer term planning of these statistics, and users will be kept informed of any developments via ScotStat.

26.1.5 Impact

The agreed changes to the grouping structure used to present recorded crime statistics are not insignificant and users may notice some change as we switch to the new groups.

To ensure no break or discontinuity to time series analysis, all tables within the 2021-22 statistics will be back revised. For the first year only, we will also provide the main tables of crimes and offences using the old grouping structure.

Those users who are familiar with the existing time series data for police recorded crime (based on the old groups) may notice some change as we switch to the new groups. The numbers of crimes and offences in certain groups will change and in some instances, the trend over time may also change.

These changes have been analysed and are provided in the Technical Report on statistical impact of changing to new groups section of the Summary of responses report.

26.2 User / Stakeholder Consultation 2019

A consultation was conducted in July - November 2019.

The consultation was split into three parts;

  • Part One: Purpose and supporting principles
  • Part Two: An alternative way to present recorded crime statistics
  • Part Three: Cyber-crime in Scotland

In summary, all respondents were supportive of many of the proposals within the alternative grouping structure presented in this consultation. Users were keen to see a greater amount of disaggregation of the current grouping structure, so that the public could have a clearer understanding of the changing nature of crime in Scotland. Users also highlighted the importance of clarity about the types of behaviour included in each crime or offence group.

Respondents were generally supportive of several proposals laid out in the consultation, such as the reclassification of common assault from an offence to a crime. However, for other areas there was a more mixed response such as reclassifying aspects of prostitution and drug crime as an offence. Some users also questioned whether it was still relevant to maintain a distinction between crimes and offences in statistical publications.

There was clear interest from all respondents in having more information about cyber-crimes. Specifically, there was reference to the fact that as cyber-technologies are being increasingly used by more people to commit crimes it would be useful to know to what extent different crime groups are affected by this change in criminal behaviour.

Given the clear user support for such a change, a new cyber-crime chapter, which presented and discussed the latest available information on recorded cyber-crime in Scotland, was added to the 2020-21 Annual bulletin. This included an estimate of the proportion of recorded crime which is cyber-enabled and further detail about the characteristics of these cases (based on the review of a random sample of crime records).

Having reflected on the responses received to this consultation, the Scottish Crime Recording Board presented revised grouping structures for final consideration in Autumn 2021.

The full Summary of Responses to the 2019 consultation can be accessed online.

26.3 Earlier consultations

26.3.1 User/Stakeholder consultation 2015

A consultation was conducted in April - June 2015. The focus of this consultation was the seven annual statistical bulletins published at that time by the Scottish Government based on returns from Police Scotland at that time. These were:

The main objectives of the consultation were to:

  • Understand who the users are, what their requirements for data are and how they would benefit from any new suggested structure/content;
  • Identify improvements that will ease and increase the use of police data in the future; and
  • Guide the future strategy for how, when and what we publish regarding police data.

There were several reasons to consult further with the users and stakeholders of police recorded crime statistics at this time, and reflect on how we reported on police data. The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) pointed to improvements that could be made in its 2014 Assessment Report, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) published its Crime Audit 2014 report and a number of changes had been implemented for the Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2013-14 statistical bulletin following the establishment of Police Scotland (such as reporting at local authority level rather than the eight legacy police forces, and the presentation of limited time series for Group 6 – Miscellaneous offences and Group 7 – Motor vehicle offences to reflect the data comparability issues (per the Technical Report).

An innovative approach was taken that utilised a variety of consultation methods (including one-to-one and group discussions, as well as written communications) to capture the views of expert and non-expert users including policy colleagues, analysts from the Scottish Parliament and local authorities, Police Scotland, HMICS, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), academics, representatives of third sector organisations, subscribers of ScotStat and the general public.

The production of the 2014-15 and subsequent Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletins reflected on the findings from this consultation. The full results of the 2015 user consultation can be accessed online.

26.3.2 User/ Stakeholder consultation 2014

A Crime statistics user event in was held in Edinburgh in October 2014. A detailed report on the findings from this event, as well as the timetable and presentations, can be accessed online.

A user consultation was conducted in April - May 2014, the full results of which can be accessed online.

26.3.3 Future User/Stakeholder consultation

Going forward, users will be kept informed of any developments and upcoming consultations through the ScotStat network.



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