Information

Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland: user guide

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


22. Other Scottish Government publications using police data

For those that are interested in the overall level of recorded crime in Scotland the best source of data is the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin. In addition, the Scottish Government publishes four topic specific bulletins that are based on police recorded crime data. The bulletins are: Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland, Homicide in Scotland, Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms and Characteristics of police recorded hate crime in Scotland. The relationship between the data included in these bulletins and the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin are detailed below.

The Scottish Government also publishes two other bulletins based on data collected from the police: Drug Seizures Recorded by the Police in Scotland and Police Officer Quarterly Strength Statistics, Scotland.

In addition, the Scottish Government publishes bulletins that cover the criminal justice system once crimes and offences have been recorded by the police. They are: Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, Prison Statistics Scotland and Reconviction Rates in Scotland.

22.1 Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland

The Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland Official Statistics bulletin presents statistics on incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police, including the demographics of victims and perpetrators.

The definition of domestic abuse used by the police is:

'Any form of physical, sexual or mental and emotional abuse [that] might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of a relationship. The relationship will be between partners (married, cohabiting, civil partnership or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse can be committed in the home or elsewhere'.

The data in Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland bulletin are collected via a separate data collection from the police and is a simple count of the numbers of incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police using the definition above. It is likely that some of the incidents will involve repeat victims or perpetrators. As a result, incident numbers will be higher than the actual number of unique victims or perpetrators. Not all incidents will result in the recording of a crime or offence.

From 1 April 2019, the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 came into effect. The Act created a new offence for circumstances where a person engages in a course of behaviour[7] which is abusive towards their partner or ex-partner. The Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland bulletin also provides data on the number of incidents which included the recording of a crime as defined by this Act. Due to the different source for which these data are collected it is likely these figures may differ from the those presented in the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin.

The Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin uses Police Scotland's crime management system. The Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland bulletin uses information from the Interim Vulnerable Persons Database (iVPD), which is not a crime recording system and exists to collate disparate pieces of information about incidents, allowing officers to build a narrative about people who have reported or been involved in an incident with a domestic abuse element.

Both of these systems are live operational databases, which means they constantly change as cases are entered into them and then reviewed. This can for example lead to some crime types being amended as investigations proceed, and given the different times of data extraction for the two statistical reports, some differences in the number of crimes shown are likely to occur.

For users interested in the volume of crimes recorded under the Domestic Abuse Act, the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin will remain the primary source. For trends and characteristics of in domestic abuse incidents users should refer to the Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland bulletin.

The statistics reported in Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland do not reveal the incidence of all domestic abuse committed as not all incidents are reported to the police. There is an additional source for information on domestic abuse in Scotland: the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) contains a self-completion section on partner abuse.

22.2 Homicide in Scotland

The Homicide in Scotland bulletin presents statistics on the number of homicide cases recorded in Scotland, where a single case of homicide is counted for each incident involving Murder or Culpable homicide (common law), irrespective of the number of victims or accused.

The Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin contains the top 36 category Homicide etc. The Homicide etc. category contains the crimes of Murder and Culpable homicide (common law), as represented in the Homicide in Scotland bulletin, but also comprises the following crimes, which are not detailed in the Homicide in Scotland bulletin:

  • Causing death by dangerous driving;
  • Causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs;
  • Causing death by careless driving;
  • Illegal driver involved in fatal accident;
  • and Corporate homicide.

The Homicide in Scotland bulletin contains more detailed information on the two crimes of Murder and Culpable homicide (common law), which are collectively referred to as Homicide in the Homicide in Scotland bulletin. The data in the Homicide in Scotland bulletin are collected via a separate data collection from the police and are collected on an individual case basis. This means that characteristics of victims and accused, such as age and gender, as well as the circumstances of the homicide, are collected and then included in the bulletin. Additional details relating to the method, motive and relationship between the victim and the accused are also shown.

The data contained within the Homicide in Scotland and the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletins will differ from each other for the following reasons:

  • The Homicide in Scotland bulletin does not cover all of the crimes included within the Homicide etc. category detailed in the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin (as specified above).
  • The data in the Homicide in Scotland bulletin are collected from the police separately to the data presented in the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin and are collected on an individual case basis.
  • The data are extracted from police recording systems at different time points, which may result in reclassification of crimes, such as attempted murder to murder, not being included in the collections for the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin, but are reflected in the Homicide in Scotland bulletin.

We therefore recommend that users interested in Homicide statistics should refer directly to the Homicide in Scotland bulletin series.

The Homicide in Scotland bulletin series contains data on the number of homicides where the relationship of the victim to the accused was either partner or ex-partner. The term partner or ex-partner includes: spouse, separated or divorced spouse, cohabitee, lover, boy/girlfriend and ex-boy/girlfriend. This corresponds to data that are also included in the Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland bulletin series.

The Homicide in Scotland bulletin series contains data on the number of homicides where the main method of killing was with a firearm. This corresponds to data that are also included in the Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland bulletin series.

22.3 Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland

The Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland bulletin presents statistics on those crimes and offences recorded by the police in which a firearm was alleged to have been involved or where a firearm was stolen.

The Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin covers crimes and offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been involved or where a firearm was stolen, but they are not separately identifiable as such.

The data in Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland bulletin are collected via a separate data collection from the police and are collected for each incident where a crime or offence has allegedly involved a firearm. The exception to this is the crime code 55000: Firearms, miscellaneous offences. These offences mainly relate to the possession, handling and distribution of firearms and ammunition. Prior to 2005-06, data returns for the Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland bulletin did include the crime code 55000: Firearms, miscellaneous offences. However, it became apparent from discussions with the police that not all such incidents were being included. It was therefore decided to remove these incidents from the main tables and to provide a separate table which presents the totals for these offences based on data from the Recorded Crime in Scotland data returns.

For all crimes and offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been involved, the date, location, type of firearm and how the firearm was used in the crime or offence are collected. For crimes and offences in which fatal or non-fatal injury is caused, details of the age and gender of the victims are collected. For offences that are cleared up, details of the age and gender of accused are collected.

We therefore recommend that users interested in statistics on crimes and offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been involved or where a firearm was stolen should refer directly to the Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland bulletin series.

The Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland bulletin series contains data on the number of homicides where the main method of killing was with a firearm. This corresponds to data that are also included in the Homicide in Scotland bulletin series.

22.4 Hate Crime incidents recorded by Police in Scotland

The latest information for the number of hate crimes incidents recorded by Police in Scotland from 2014-15 to 2019-20 and by aggravation types can be found here. Additional research into the characteristics around the nature of hate crime incidents was conducted on a random sample of 2018-19 incidents and also available as part of the Characteristics of police recorded hate crime in Scotland: study.

The Hate Crime definition used in the report is any crime which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated (wholly or partly) by malice and ill-will towards a social group.

In Scotland, the law recognises hate crimes as crimes motivated by prejudice based on these characteristics:

  • Disability,
  • Race,
  • Religion,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Transgender identity.

A person does not need to be a member of the social group being targeted by the perpetrator to be the victim of a hate crime. The law states that the identity of the victim is irrelevant as to whether something is a hate crime or not; the motivation of the perpetrator is the key factor in defining a hate crime.

This study on hate crime characteristics is to be seen as a follow-up to Hate crime: availability of information recorded by the police in Scotland.

The data available on race aggravation within the Characteristics of police recorded hate crime in Scotland: study, supersede the information provided in the Racist Incidents Recorded by the Police in Scotland bulletin presents statistics on racist incidents.

The findings from a further research project into the characteristics of police recorded hate crimes in 2020-21 data is currently planned for publication in 2022.

The Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin uses Police Scotland's crime management system for racially aggravated offences. The Characteristics of police recorded hate crime in Scotland: study uses information from the Interim Vulnerable Persons Database (iVPD), which is not a crime recording system and exists to collate disparate pieces of information about incidents, allowing officers to build a narrative about people who have reported or been involved in an incident with a hate crime element.

Both of these systems are live operational databases, which means they constantly change as cases are entered into them and then reviewed. This can for example lead to some crime types being amended as investigations proceed, and given the different times of data extraction for the two statistical reports, some differences in the number of crimes shown are likely to occur.

22.5 Drug Seizures Recorded by the Police in Scotland

The Drug Seizures and Offender Characteristics bulletin presents statistics for drug seizures made by the police in Scotland. This includes the aggregated number of drug seizures and the quantity of each type of drug seized. The statistics in this bulletin series relate to drugs controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The Act divides drugs into three categories, class A, B and C, according to their harmfulness. A full list of drugs in each category is given in Schedule 2 to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, as amended by Orders in Council.

In addition to the number of drug related crimes recorded by the police in Scotland that are included in the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin series, the Drug Seizures and Offender Characteristics bulletin also includes information on the number of drug seizures, the quantity of each type of drug seized and the characteristics of the perpetrators of drug possession crimes. Within Group 5, there is a top 35 category for Drug crimes. The Drug crimes category is further broken down in Table A5 of the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin series.

We therefore recommend that users interested in statistics on the number of drug seizures, and the quantity of each type of drug seized, should refer directly to the Drug Seizures and Offender Characteristics bulletin series.

22.6 Police Officer Quarterly Strength Statistics, Scotland

Police Officer Quarterly Strength Statistics, Scotland is a quarterly publication that presents statistics on the number of full-time equivalent police officers in Scotland. Data are as at the end of the respective quarter: Q1 = 31 March, Q2 = 30 June, Q3 = 30 September and Q4 = 31 December. Data on the number of full-time equivalent police officers in Scotland are available from Q3 in 2003.

22.7 Criminal Proceedings in Scotland

The Criminal Proceedings in Scotland bulletin presents statistics on criminal proceedings concluded in Scottish courts. This includes a summary of crimes and offences dealt with by courts, sentencing outcomes and characteristics of convicted offenders. Additional information on a range of non-court disposals issued by the police and by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) are also presented.

Statistics dealing with recorded crime, included in the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin and companion bulletins, and court proceedings statistics, included in the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland bulletin, are not directly comparable. Recorded Crime in Scotland counts the number of crimes recorded, whilst Criminal Proceedings in Scotland counts the number of court and non-court proceedings. For example, a person may be proceeded against for more than one crime involving more than one victim in a single proceeding. This would be counted as one proceeding in Criminal Proceedings in Scotland but as more than one crime in Recorded Crime in Scotland. There is the possibility that the crime recorded by the police may be reviewed in the course of judicial proceedings, for example, COPFS may decide not to undertake any proceedings. In addition, a crime may be recorded by the police in one year and the associated court proceedings concluded in a subsequent year.

22.8 Prison Statistics Scotland

The Prison Statistics Scotland publication provides statistics on the changing scale and nature of the prison population, including population by establishment, type of custody, crime type and sentence length, characteristics of prisoners, receptions to / liberations from penal establishments and ten year population projections. It also provides contextual explanation of the historical drivers of changes in the population.

22.9 Reconviction Rates in Scotland

The Reconviction Rates in Scotland bulletin presents reconviction rates for offenders released from custody or given non-custodial sentences. These are broken down by age, sex, sentence type, main crime, conviction history, and geographical area. The bulletin also includes repeat non-court disposal rates for non-court disposals (direct measures) given by the police or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Recidivism is where someone, who has received some form of criminal justice sanction (such as a community sentence or a fine), goes on to commit another offence. Determining recidivism is important, as it illustrates the effectiveness of the criminal justice system on the punishment and rehabilitation of offenders.

Reconviction rates are a proxy measure for recidivism, as reconvictions are a subset of actual reoffending. Not all offences which are committed will necessarily result in a conviction in court. For example:

  • not all offences are reported to the police;
  • of those offences that are reported and recorded, not all result in an offender being identified and charged, and a report being sent to the Procurator Fiscal;
  • of those cases which are reported to the Procurator Fiscal, it may be decided to take no proceedings, or to employ some alternative to prosecution, such as a warning letter or a fiscal fine;
  • where persons are prosecuted, the proceedings may end up being dropped, e.g. witnesses fail to turn up, or the accused is acquitted.

Contact

Email: Justice_Analysts@gov.scot

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