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

25. 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.

25.1 User / Stakeholder Consultation 2019

A consultation was conducted in July - November 2019. The purpose of this engagement was to ensure 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).

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

A summary of the responses to each of the sections is provided below.

25.1.1 Part One: Purpose and supporting principles

Part One of the consultation outlined the purpose and supporting principles on how police recorded crimes and offences should be grouped and presented in the National Statistics. The aim of these is to give the Crime Board a formal set of criteria on which to base the presentation of crime statistics and judge any changes in approach both as part of this consultation, and in the future.

Where they offered a view, respondents were by and large happy with the purpose and principles laid out in the consultation. Respondents felt that several issues were important to them such as maintaining a granular and consistent approach, where comparisons could be made across time. The importance of also being able to compare crime statistics across a range of datasets (including the Crime and Justice Survey and Criminal Proceedings) was also highlighted. Another area user discussed was the importance of open access data, with more data being made available to allow them to better use and reuse it.

Some of the responses received queried the relevance of the distinction between crimes and offences. These respondents questioned whether this separation was still of relevance today, commenting that it could be appear to be arbitrary. It was noted that historically this was simpler with a common law / statutory offences split, but that this may now be outdated.

Furthermore, this led to the suggestion that this distinction may not be helpful when interpreting the figures, as it may not be well understood by the public. It was also highlighted that victims might feel that their experience is being downgraded through the statistical categorisation of some cases as offences rather than crimes – albeit the publications make clear this has no impact on how police investigate reports of criminal activity.

25.1.2 Part Two: An alternative way to present recorded crime statistics

Part two of the consultation proposed an alternative way through which the recorded crime statistics could be presented, using a refreshed set of groups. User views were invited on the differences between the current grouping structure and the alternative proposal.

A brief summary of the responses to this section are provided in the table below. A more detailed analysis of the responses are available in the Summary of Responses paper which is published online.


Respondents were…

Non-sexual violence

  • supportive of increasing the level of granularity in this group.
  • supportive of reclassifying Common assault as a crime and also to further split this into common assault with- and without injury.
  • supportive of having a category to present cases recorded under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, although highlighted the name for such a group should be carefully considered.

Sexual crimes

  • generally supportive of using multiple groups to present statistics on sexual crime in Scotland.
  • however still keen to maintain an overall measure of sexual crime.
  • mixed views on whether the crime of 'Soliciting or loitering in a public place for the purposes of prostitution' should be reclassified as an offence.

Crimes of dishonesty

  • generally content with the current presentation of dishonest crime but with suggestions that some types of crime (i.e. fraud and theft) could be further disaggregated to be more meaningful.

Fire-raising, vandalism etc.

  • supportive of renaming this group to 'Damage and reckless conduct'.

Other crimes

  • respondents were generally not supportive of reclassifying the drug possession for personal use as an offence.

Miscellaneous offences

  • supportive of splitting the current miscellaneous offences into two groups.

Motor vehicle offences

  • supportive of renaming this group to 'Road traffic offences'.

25.1.3 Part Three: Cyber-crime in Scotland and other suggested approaches

Part Three of the consultation provided users an opportunity to offer any other views on the approach used to present these statistics. This section also discussed the recording of crimes with a cyber-element and how we might present information on this topic in the future.

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. However, there was a lack of consensus about if this information would be best presented in its own stand-alone chapter or discussed as part of pre-existing chapters.

Respondents also highlighted a number of areas they considered important for future statistical releases which are listed below:

  • It would be helpful for categories and sub-categories to be split in supporting tables to Local Authority areas.
  • A table detailing where aggravators are present for each category.
  • Consideration should be given to apply the outcome approach to the clear-up rate statistics. This approach would provide users with greater clarity as to how crimes are dealt with.
  • There was also a view that any changes should not be swayed by sentencing responses from the judicial system.

25.1.4 Outcome

The Scottish Crime Recording Board are considering all responses to this consultation, along with other feedback received from the associated events run during the consultation period.

The 2020-21 Recorded Crime National Statistics will continue to be presented using the existing approach, however, given the clear user support for such a change, a new cyber-crime chapter, which will present and discuss the latest available information on recorded cyber-crime in Scotland, has been added. This includes 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 further on the outcome of this consultation, the Scottish Crime Recording Board plans to present a revised provisional grouping structure for final comments in Autumn 2021, with final decisions being made in early 2022. If possible, this will allow changes to be implemented from April 2022 onwards.

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

25.2 Earlier consultations

25.2.1 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.

25.2.2 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.

25.2.3 Future User/Stakeholder consultation

A user consultation is planned for Autumn 2021. The consultation will cover three main topics; (1) the process through which recorded crime statistics are disseminated, (2) the grouping structure used, and (3) user appetite for new types of policing-based statistics.

Going forward, users will be kept informed of any developments relating to the consultation through the ScotStat network.



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