Statistical Bulletin Crime and Justice Series: Homicide in Scotland, 2009-10

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3. Commentary

Homicide cases (Table 1,Table 2,Table 3,Table 4,Chart 2,Chart 3andChart 4)

  • Statistics quoted in this section refer to cases currently recorded as homicide (as at 13 December 2010). A case of homicide refers to one incident and may involve more than one victim and/or accused person.
  • In 2009-10, the police recorded 78 cases of homicide, a decrease of 20 per cent from 2008-09 (97 cases). This is the lowest number of cases recorded in the 10 year period covered by this bulletin.
  • Homicide cases involving more than one victim remain rare. There was only one such case in 2009-10, which is similar to the position in previous years. Twenty five (32 per cent) of the homicide cases recorded in 2009-10 involved more than one accused person. There was a total of 118 known accused persons connected with the 78 recorded homicide cases.
  • In the Strathclyde police force area, which contained 43 per cent of the estimated population of Scotland in 2009, there were 43 recorded homicide cases in 2009-10 (55 per cent of the total). There was a decrease in the number of homicide cases recorded in 5 out of the 8 police force areas between 2008-09 and 2009-10. Lothian and Borders increased from 7 to 12 recorded homicide cases, whilst the number of cases in Fife and Tayside remained constant across the two-year period. (See Annex 5.11)
  • In 2009-10, the most common location for homicides to occur was within a dwelling (60 per cent of all cases), followed by a street or footpath (28 per cent). This pattern has remained consistent over the 10 year period covered by this bulletin. Chart 2 shows the distribution of homicide cases by location between 2000-01 to 2009-10.

Chart 2 Location of homicide cases (where known), 2000-01 to 2009-10

Chart 2 Location of homicide cases (where known), 2000-01 to 2009-10

  • The majority (74 per cent) of solved homicide cases recorded between 2000-01 and 2009-10 involved males killing males. Cases where the main accused and main victim were both female amounted to just two per cent of the total number of homicide cases recorded in this period.
  • Chart 3 shows a breakdown of the relationship (where known) between the main accused and main victim. In the majority (69 per cent) of cases where a male was accused of killing another male, the victim and accused were acquaintances. In 38 per cent of cases where a female was accused of killing a male, the accused and victim were partners. This was also the same relationship in 49 per cent of cases where a male was accused of killing a female.

Chart 3 Relationship between main accused and main victim (where known), 2000-01 to 2009-10

Chart 3 Relationship between main accused and main victim (where known), 2000-01 to 2009-10

  • Homicide cases recorded by the police make up only a very small proportion of all recorded non-sexual violent crime; 0.1 per cent in 2009-10. This has remained consistent over the 10 year period covered by this bulletin. The trend in the number of recorded homicides followed a roughly similar pattern to trends for the number of recorded attempted murders and serious assaults in 2009-10.

Chart 4 Trends in selected non-sexual violent crimes 1, 2000-01 to 2009-10 (index 2000-01 = 100)

Chart 4 Trends in selected non-sexual violent crimes1, 2000-01 to 2009-10 (index 2000-01 = 100)

1. The homicide figures provided in this chart were taken from aggregate recorded crime statistics recorded by the police. Due to slight differences in the timing and methods of collection, the aggregated crime figures for homicide may differ slightly from the figures given elsewhere in this bulletin (which are derived from individual returns made in respect of each homicide).

Victims of homicide (Table 5)

  • In total, there were 79 victims in the 78 homicide cases recorded in 2009-10, 20 fewer victims than in 2008-09. This represented a rate of 15 victims per million population in Scotland, the lowest rate recorded in the 10 year period covered by this bulletin.
  • In 2009-10, 66 per cent (52) of homicide victims were male. The overall homicide rate for males (21 victims per million population) was more than twice the rate for females (10 victims per million population). The highest homicide rates recorded in 2009-10 for males were in the 21 to 30 and 31 to 50 age groups (45 and 33 victims per million population respectively). The highest rates for females was for the 16 to 20 and 31 to 50 age group (18 and 17 per million population respectively).

Persons accused of homicide (Table 6)

  • Of the 78 homicide cases recorded in 2009-10, 118 perpetrators had been identified as at 13 December 2010, 14 fewer (11 per cent) than in 2008-09. The majority of accused persons in 2009-10 were male (84 per cent). However this is the lowest recorded proportion of male perpetrators in the 10 years covered by this bulletin.
  • In 2009-10, the total number of individuals accused of homicide equated to 23 per million population. This rate was highest for males aged 16 to 20 years (135 per million population) followed by males aged 21 to 30 years (107 per million population). The highest rate for females related to those aged 16 to 20 years (31 per million population), although it should be noted that the rates for females are based on relatively small numbers.

Method (Table 7andChart 5)

  • The most common method of killing in each of the last 10 years was with a sharp instrument. In 2009-10, this method was used in the homicide of 35 victims (44 per cent). Whilst this figure is down from 58 per cent in 2008-09, it still represents over three times as many homicides as the next most common method. For male victims, the next most common method of killing was hitting and kicking (15 per cent of victims), followed by the use of a blunt instrument (13 per cent). The second most common method of killing for female victims was strangulation/asphyxiation (26 per cent).

Chart 5 Victims of homicide by main method of killing, 2009-10

Chart 5 Victims of homicide by main method of killing, 2009-10

Relationship of main accused to victim (Table 8,Table 9andChart 6)

  • For 78 per cent (61) of the homicide victims recorded in 2009-10, the main accused was known to them either as an acquaintance (53 per cent), a relative (9 per cent) or a partner (17 per cent). Fifteen (19 per cent) victims were killed by a stranger. For the remaining three per cent of victims, the relationship to the main accused was unknown.
  • Chart 6 presents the trends over the last 10 years in the number of homicides for male and female victims by their relationship to the main accused. The highest number of male victims was consistently for those killed by an acquaintance. For female victims the highest number were generally killed by a partner. The large number of male victims killed by acquaintances largely drives the fluctuations in the overall number of homicides. With the exception of female victims killed by a partner in 2000-01, the number of all other types of homicides have remained relatively stable, and low, throughout the 2000-01 to 2009-10 period.

Chart 6 Victims of homicide by gender and relationship to main accused (where known), 2000-01 to 2009-10

Chart 6 Victims of homicide by gender and relationship to main accused (where known), 2000-01 to 2009-10

  • A total of 69 children under the age of 16 years were victims of homicide between 2000-01 and 2009-10. Of these, 34 (49 per cent) were killed by one of their parents. For the 27 victims aged under one year old where the perpetrator was known, the main accused was either a parent (78 per cent), other relative (11 per cent) or unknown (11 per cent).
  • For homicides recorded in the last ten years, 41 per cent of the female victims aged between 16 and 70 were killed by their partner, 21 per cent were killed by an acquaintance and 8 per cent were killed by a stranger. For male victims aged 16 to 70, only 6 per cent were killed by their partner. The majority (60 per cent) of male victims aged 16 to 70 were killed by an acquaintance and 16 per cent were killed by a stranger.
  • Of the 34 older people (aged 70 and over) who were victims of homicide in the 10 years covered by this bulletin, 21 were female and 13 were male. Thirty-eight per cent of these (13 victims) were killed by a stranger, which is over double the percentage for younger adults. A total of 7 older people were killed by their son or daughter, 5 by a partner and 7 by someone else known to them.

Main motive (Table 10andTable 11)

  • The most common reasons recorded for committing homicide in the 10 year period 2000-01 to 2009-10 were fight/quarrel and rage/fury, with around half of all victims killed in such circumstances. In 2009-10, this figure was 50 per cent (39). The next most common known motive amongst males was feud, faction rivalry which was the motive in 16 per cent (8) of male homicides in 2009-10.
  • The most common set of circumstances in which females become victims of homicide are in a dwelling, in a rage/fight with a partner. Location is less of a factor for male victims, whose killing more typically is a result of a rage/fight with an acquaintance. Three quarters (77 per cent) of all female victims in the period 2000-01 to 2009-10 were killed in dwellings, compared with 51 per cent of males.
  • Seven victims (9 per cent of all victims) were reported to have been killed in drug-related homicide cases in 2009-10. In this context, "drug-related" is defined as a homicide motivated by a need to obtain drugs or money for drugs, a homicide of a consumer or supplier of drugs or a homicide as a consequence of rivalry within the drugs trade/ between users and dealers. All seven victims were male. One of the homicides recorded in 2009-10 was reported to have had a homophobic motivation.

Drink/drug status (Table 12,Table 13andChart 7)

  • Nearly half (49 per cent) of the total of 118 persons accused in homicide cases in 2009-10 were reported to have been drunk and/or under the influence of drugs at the time. Of these, 33 per cent (39) were drunk, 4 per cent (5) on drugs and 12 per cent (14) were both drunk and on drugs. This represents 75 per cent (58) of accused persons for which the drink/drug status was known. The drink/drug status of the accused was unknown for 35 per cent (41) of accused. Only 16 per cent (19) of accused were reported to have been neither drunk nor under the influence of drugs.
  • In 74 per cent of cases where the main accused was drunk and/or on drugs, the victim was also known to have been drunk and/or on drugs. Where the main motive for a homicide was a rage or fight, 56 per cent of the main accused for whom the drink/drug status was known were drunk and/or under the influence of drugs. In 73 per cent of these cases the victim was also drunk and/or on drugs at the time the homicide took place.

Chart 7 Drink/drug status of main accused in homicide cases, 2009-10

Chart 7 Drink/drug status of main accused in homicide cases, 2009-10

International comparisons of homicide rate (Table 14)

  • Care must be taken in making international comparisons between crime statistics due to different counting rules and definitions, e.g. some countries include attempted murder in their homicide figures. However, it is of interest to observe how Scotland's homicide rate compares with those in other countries. Homicide rates for European Union states are shown in Table 14 and are taken from Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics published by Eurostat. Scotland's average homicide rate between 2006 and 2008 was 2.14 victims per 100,000 population. This was higher than the corresponding rates in England and Wales (1.35) and in Northern Ireland (1.52).