DOMESTIC ABUSE RECORDED BY THE POLICE IN SCOTLAND
5. Notes on statistics used in this bulletin
A statistical collection on domestic abuse (previously referred to as domestic violence) was recommended in the Report of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary "Hitting Home - A Report on the Police Response to Domestic Violence 1997", as follows:
'That the standard definition of domestic violence to be developed by The Scottish Office in consultation with forces includes sub-categories of: - crimes of personal violence (non-sexual and sexual); other crimes (such as breach of the peace, threats, and vandalism); and abuse which does not amount to crime; and that the definition be adopted by all forces as soon as it is agreed'.
'That all forces record domestic incidents so that they can be reviewed individually and in total, using the sub-categories referred to in recommendation 1'.
These recommendations were progressed through the domestic violence working group of the Scottish Criminal Statistics Committee involving ACPO(S) (Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland) nominated representatives which agreed the following definition.
'Domestic abuse is any form of physical, non-physical, or sexual abuse which takes place within the context of a close relationship, committed either in the home or elsewhere. This relationship will be between partners (married, co-habiting or otherwise) or ex-partners'.
5.2. Accuracy of the statistics
The statistical return from which the figures in this bulletin are taken is a simple count of the numbers of incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police using the definition of domestic abuse agreed by the domestic abuse working group of the Scottish Criminal Statistics Committee involving ACPO(S) nominated representatives. Following current terminology, these incidents are now referred to as incidents of domestic abuse. Returns from the eight Scottish home forces are included in this bulletin.
5.2.2. Time Series Analysis
In 1999 data was available for the period 1 April - 31 December only, as this was the first time that the data was collated centrally. From 2000 onwards data has been submitted for the full calendar year. Where comparisons have been drawn between data for these years, only percentage distributions have been used and not actual figures.
5.2.3. Incident Count
The statistics presented in this bulletin are described as incidents of domestic abuse reported by the police. The bulletin reports the most serious crime/offence associated with each incident. Tables which show comparable figures for 1999-2002 for incidents of domestic abuse as a percentage of total incidents are based on revised 1999 and 2000 figures, in order that figures for these years reflect a count of incidents. Previously the figures for 1999 and 2000 contained an element of double counting of incidents. This double count has now been removed.
5.2.4. Recording Issues
This is the fifth time data have been collated centrally.
In 2001, Tayside police introduced a new method of compiling the statistical information required for this bulletin and launched a join initiative with Barnardo's Scotland which is believed to have encouraged victims of domestic abuse to report incidents. These factors are likely to account for the increase in incidents of domestic abuse reported by Tayside police in 2001 compared to the previous year.
- During 2003/04 Strathclyde Police has been rolling out a new Vulnerable Person (VP) Database which collects information about domestic, racist and homophobic incidents. This also involved the back-record conversion of paper records from September 2002. In the long term this will lead to more dynamic, accurate and timely data. There have, however, been some data quality issues, resulting in an increase in unrecorded data items for incidents of domestic abuse. These issues are currently being addressed by Strathclyde Police
- Repeat Victimisation
Forces can only identify a repeat victim if he/she has previously been entered onto their database. The longer the database has been in existence the more likely it is that a repeat victim will be recognised as such. Police forces have maintained their databases over different periods and the proportion of identified repeat victims will vary accordingly.
- Police forces were not able to record complete or certain types of information in all cases. The percentage of incidents of domestic abuse where information was not recorded is shown in the table below;
Percentage of incidents of domestic abuse where information not recorded
1 January - 31 December 2003
Crimes and offences
Gender of victim and perpetrator
No. of incidents against previous victim
Location of incident
Relationship between victim and perpetrator
Action taken by police
5.2.5. Reporting Practice
These statistics do not reveal the incidence of all domestic abuse committed. Not all incidents are reported to the police. There have been found to be a number of reasons for such under reporting. For example, victims experience fear and shame as common effects of domestic abuse. In addition, under reporting may also be caused by a perpetrator physically preventing a victim reporting the domestic abuse.
The statistics available from this return of the central collection have demonstrated that police forces have recorded information in differing ways. In particular police practice in deciding when the behaviour justifies the recording of a crime or offence may differ. For example some forces have ruled that no crime or offence should be recorded if no further action is to be taken e.g. because the victim does not wish any action to be taken. Other forces may record a crime or offence. These differences clearly influence the proportion of incidents which lead to the recording of a crime or offence which ranged from 93 per cent in Grampian, and 76 per cent in Dumfries & Galloway, to 20 per cent in Central. These differences also influence the proportion of recorded crimes and offences which are referred to the procurator fiscal. There was much less variation between forces in the proportion of all incidents of domestic abuse which led to a referral to the procurator fiscal. It should be noted that these recording practices are under continuing review with the intention of achieving consistency across Scotland.
As well as common law some of the main legislation applicable to domestic abuse is as follows:
- Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Act 2001
- Criminal Justice Act 1998
- Crime and Disorder Act 1998
- Protection from Harassment Act 1997
- Family Law Act 1996
- The Matrimonial Homes (Family Law) (Scotland) Act 1981- (The bulletin makes the distinction between spouses and co-habitees in light of the Matrimonial Homes (Family Law) (Scotland) Act 1981 which gives protection to wives and some co-habitees. The protection for wives ends on divorce and co-habitees get an initial six-month period of protection, and can apply for an extension after that. Partners (not cohabiting), ex-spouses and ex-partners are not protected by the legislation. Proposals are currently being considered to extend protection after divorce and to co-habitees)
5.2.7. Recording of crimes and offences
Contraventions of Scottish criminal law are divided for statistical purposes into crimes and offences. The term "crime" is generally used for the more serious criminal acts; the less serious are 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.
The detailed classification of crimes and offences used by the Scottish Executive to collect criminal statistics contains about 360 codes.
The definition of Petty Assault used by the Scottish Executive is defined below:
Petty assault is any assault which does not fall into the following definition of Serious Assault: 'An assault in which the victim sustained an injury resulting in detention in hospital as an in-patient or any of the following injuries whether or not detained in hospital: fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, severe cuts or lacerations, or severe general shock requiring medical treatment'.
5.2.8. Crimes and offences cleared up
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.
For some types of crimes and offences 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.
It has been suggested that the above definition of "cleared up" may not have been applied consistently in all police forces returning data on incidents of domestic abuse.
5.2.9. Other sources of domestic abuse (related) statistics
- Scottish Crime Survey (1996, 2000)
Both the 1996 and 2000 Scottish Crime Survey (SCS) provide statistics on domestic abuse. Using face-to-face interviews and self-completion questionnaires the 2000 survey found that 6% of women and 3% of men reported being the victim of either threats or force by their partner during 1999, while 4% of women and 2% of men reported having been the victim of both threats and force over the same time frame. There has been no significant change in these results since the 1996 survey. In 2000, 19% (292) of women and 8% (89)of men reported that they had experienced either threats or force from a partner at some time in their lives.
- Scottish Women's Aid Annual Report 2001/2002
The Scottish Women's Aid Annual Report 2001/2002 outlines figures on women who contacted Women's Aid for support or refuge. In 2001/2002 there were 65,300 such contacts. The report also provides a breakdown of figures on sources of referral to Women's Aid and refuge outcomes.
The following symbols are used throughout the tables in this bulletin.
- = Nil
* = <0.5