" HMIC has been impressed by the work of the Violence Reduction Unit in Strathclyde Police which has been energetically led and has resulted in the transition to a national approach in this important area"
Recorded Crime Trends
In 2005/06 the Scottish police service recorded 417,785 crimes in total. This represents a decrease of five per cent on the previous year, and is equivalent to 820 crimes per 10,000 population. There were also year-on-year decreases in the numbers of recorded crimes in four of the five main crime groups, with only Group 5 - Other Crimes - showing an increase.
Trends in the incidence and solvency of crimes and offences are affected by a great many factors, social, demographic, geographic, economic, legislative, technological and so on. The way in which a criminal act comes to the attention of the police can also reflect the nature of the incident. For example, the majority of instances demand that the police react to find an offender after the crime is reported. Here, the emphasis on police, their partners and society as a whole is on reducing these demands, such reductions being reflected in falling crime figures. Conversely, in the case of drug-related crimes and those relating to carrying weapons (in Group 5), the presence of the offender and the detection of the offence tend to coincide. The same is true of most motor vehicle offences (in Group 7). In these instances detections are often the result of proactive policing and, as such, increases in their numbers can be viewed positively.
It makes sense, therefore, to separate out these different groups when examining overall crime figures. Thus, in 2005/06, the number of recorded crimes excluding Group 5 was 335,971. This represents a greater decrease on the previous year than that reported above - of seven per cent - with each of the four constituent crime groups contributing to this positive trend. Similarly positive, though in contrast, Group 5 crimes have risen by just over six per cent over the last year. Both, moreover, are indicative of longer term trends in their respective desired directions.
Clear up rates for the different crime groups show little change to those for 2004/05. The exception is that for vandalism, which has increased by one and a half percentage points.
Non-sexual crimes of violence accounted for just over 3% of all recorded crime in 2005/06. Between 2004/05 and 2005/06 recorded crimes here fell by 7%. Within the group there were decreases in all categories - serious assaults, murders and attempted murders (down 8%), robberies (down 5%) and other non-sexual crimes of violence (down 6%).
With a 1.6% share of total recorded crime, crimes of indecency fell by 10% last year. Recorded cases of rape and attempted rape increased by 5% to reach 1,161, the highest number ever recorded. This may reflect the continued proactive efforts by the police to encourage the reporting of such crimes, including those of an historical nature. Other crimes of indecency fell by 36% due to a reduction in the number of prostitution-related offences in Strathclyde, following the Emma Caldwell murder. Nevertheless, the rate of incidence of this group of crimes remains at 13 per 10,000 population.
The group with the highest volume of total recorded crime is that of crimes of dishonesty, accounting for just under half (45%) of all recorded crimes in 2005/06. There was a reduction of 22,567 cases (11%) in 2005/06 when compared to the previous year. As a result, the rate of incidence of these crimes is down from 414 to 369 per 10,000 population. Some sub-categories of crime within this group contributed significantly to the overall decline. In particular, theft from motor vehicles experienced a year-on-year decrease of 19%, while theft of motor vehicles and housebreaking both fell by 10%. The number of cases of fraud recorded by the police fell by 40%; however this is an area where numbers are particularly likely to show large fluctuations because of the impact of a small number of high volume cases. Numbers of thefts of and from motor vehicles (including attempted thefts) are now less than 40% of those recorded in the mid 1990s.
As a result of the large decline in the number of crimes of dishonesty, the proportion of total crimes represented by crimes of fire-raising and vandalism continued to increase, and now accounts for 31% of all recorded crimes in 2005/06, up from 29% of the total in 2004/05. Nonetheless, the total number of crimes in this group fell by 1% between 2004/05 and 2005/06 to 127,889. The rate of incidence remains almost unchanged at 251 per 10,000 population.
Accounting for 19.6% of total recorded crime, Group 5 (Other) crimes experienced an increase of 6%, from 77,138 in 2004/05 to 81,814 in 2005/06. This is an incidence of 161 crimes per 10,000 population. This group of crimes includes drug offences, crimes against public justice such as bail offences and offensive weapon offences. An increase in crimes against public justice reflects an increase in the granting and enforcement of additional bail conditions in order to provide safeguards over and above the standard bail conditions. Recorded drug crimes increased by 6% from 41,823 in 2004/05 to 44,247 in 2005/06, which reflects the trend seen over the last few years.
Turning to recorded offences, i.e. groups 6 and 7 (miscellaneous and road traffic offences), the total number decreased this year by 6%, from 632,982 in 2004/05 to 593,816. This was largely due to a decrease in speeding offences. The only offence category which showed a significant increase was that of other miscellaneous offences, largely due to increases in offences recorded of urinating and consumption of alcohol in designated places, both of which are generally only recorded when they are discovered by police. These increases appear to be linked to a growth in proactive interventions by the police to tackle antisocial behaviour and disorder.
Scottish Crime Recording Standard
In 2005 HMIC published a thematic report entitled 'Meeting the Standard'. The thematic focused on the implementation of the Scottish Crime Recording Standard ( SCRS) and its impact on recorded crime figures in Scotland since its introduction on 1 April 2004. The Standard was examined with respect to impact, assessment, audit, implementation, SCRS issues and emerging issues.
The report notes that the SCRS has been fully adopted in all Scottish forces and major advances have been made in an attempt to standardise recording procedures. There has been the forecasted rise in recorded figures for crime types that were previously identified as being sensitive to the effects of the SCRS. Despite these advances there is still scope for further development of the standard nationally.
There are fourteen recommendations within the report, concentrating on force commitment,
training, IT, role of Force Crime Registrars and Scottish Crime Registrars Group, auditing procedures, statistical returns, crime classification and investigation.
Of particular note is the work of the force Crime Registrars in bringing together a methodology to audit the standard within forces. During the primary and review inspection process HMIC will pay particular attention to this aspect of the standard and forces will be encouraged to adopt robust procedures to ensure that the standard becomes ingrained in the recording of crime in Scotland.
National Intelligence Model
HMIC notes and endorses work going onto support and develop the National Intelligence Model ( NIM). This is a key tool in the armoury for fighting crime and disorder.
The basic principles of the model used by Scottish forces and the SDEA assist the effective deployment of resources to police high risk areas in an effective and efficient manner.
The establishment by ACPOS of a NIM Development Project Team was a key step to take forward this priority. This team has visited all forces and the SDEA to assess NIM compliance and prepare an initial baseline assessment. This process continues and is on schedule to achieve full compliance with Minimum Standards 1, as set out in the Police Reform Act 2002, by the end of this year.
Training is a key element in embedding the NIM ethos into Scottish policing and HMIC is pleased to note that the NIM team has integrated NIM training throughout all divisions of the Scottish Police College. The primary inspection of the college, due to commence in August this year, will consider how well this embedding process has achieved its objectives.
In January 2006, the Scottish Police College hosted, as part of its Continuous Development Programme, the first NIM Seminar. Following the success of this event a further seminar is planned for early 2007.
It is also noted that progress has been made in integrating Problem Solving Policing with NIM, and in several areas in Scotland work is ongoing with external partners to combat shared problems particularly in terms of antisocial behaviour. The work on the thematic report entitled 'Common Knowledge' will inform this debate.
HMIC notes that a business case to take forward the next steps to NIM implementation is being prepared. HMIC also notes that ACPOS is fully committed to promoting the achievement of maximum benefits from the successful implementation of NIM in the fight against criminality and disorder in Scotland.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition ( ANPR)
ANPR uses technology that has been used commercially for a number of years. It is a software application linked to a mobile or fixed camera which has the ability to read number plates and compare the resultant letters and numbers to information held on the Police National Computer ( PNC). The system highlights to monitoring officers any police interest in a vehicle to aid timeous intervention to detect and prevent crime. Its usefulness to the police is now well established both in terms of mobile and fixed systems.
A fixed site network of ANPR cameras throughout Scotland is also nearing completion. This network has the potential to read up to 3,000 number plates per hour, per lane of traffic. The information obtained by the camera is immediately cross-referenced with police databases including a link to the DVLA and Motor Insurance databases, allowing officers to identify vehicles that are not registered, taxed, insured or do not have a valid MOT.
All information recorded by ANPR equipment will be held on a national central database known as the Scottish Back Office Facility ( SBOF) located at The Scottish Criminal Records Office ( SCRO). This facility will have the ability to process 1,000,000 vehicle movements per day. When the ANPR interface with the Scottish Intelligence Database ( SID) is operational it is anticipated that approximately 6,000 'hits' per week will be transmitted to operational officers, supplying real time information on the movement of vehicles being used by criminals.
In addition to identifying suspect vehicles and drivers, the data store of ANPR information can be used to identify the movement of a stolen vehicle prior to its being recorded as stolen or potential witnesses who travelled on a road at the time of an incident being investigated by the police.
These developments will undoubtedly assist Scottish law enforcement in detecting crime and denying criminals the use of the Scottish roads network.
HMIC notes the potential this technology has for a real impact on travelling criminals. The challenge for the police will be in providing a proportionate response to match the potential hits identified by this system.
Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act
This Act which came into effect in October 2005 strengthens the law protecting children and adults from sex offenders. Protecting children is a priority for the police and the Scottish Executive and this Act enables the police to intervene early to prevent predatory sex offenders from targeting and abusing children. It creates new offences of grooming a child for the purposes of committing a sexual offence; paying for the sexual services of a child; causing or inciting the provision of sexual services by a child or child pornography; controlling a child provider of sexual services or a child involved in pornography; and arranging or facilitating the child provision of sexual services or child pornography.
The Act also provides for Risk of Sexual Harm Orders ( RSHOs) - restraining orders which can be imposed on someone of any age if they are considered to be at risk of causing sexual harm to a child. Breach of an RSHO is a criminal offence. It also extends the use of Sexual Offences Prevention Orders ( SOPOs) so that they can be imposed by the court when passing sentence on a sex offender, rather than waiting for evidence of further sexually risky behaviour.
In addition the time limit for prosecutions has been removed and the offences relating to the taking, making, possessing and distribution of indecent images of children have been extended.
The Act also adds the new offences to schedule 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which means that offenders convicted of these offences will become subject to the notification requirements of Part 2 of that Act.
HMIC will be interested in how forces use this legislation to protect children in our communities.
Human trafficking and people smuggling are different sides of the same coin. Whilst people smuggling is the facilitation of illegal entry into the country, those trafficked into the country continue to be under the control of the traffickers after their arrival.
It is estimated that each year, some 5,000 women and girls are smuggled or trafficked into the UK on the promise of a job and then compelled to work in the sex trade as prostitutes. Almost all come from impoverished countries in eastern Europe, Africa and Asia and intelligence suggests that some of the criminals who smuggle women and girls into Scotland are themselves illegal immigrants.
Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery. Victims of trafficking are among the most marginalised groups in society and experience emotional, physical, mental and sexual abuse. The Crown Office regards trafficking cases as a priority and has provided guidance to prosecutors on making full use of the new anti-trafficking legislation contained in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. It is an offence for a person to be involved in the trafficking into or out of the UK of a person or people for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The maximum sentence is 14 years.
In 2000, recognising the issues human trafficking raises, the government established Reflex, a UK wide multi-agency task force to combat organised immigration crime including people trafficking. More recently Scottish forces took part in Operation Pentameter an initiative funded by Reflex and the first co-ordinated effort to focus specifically on trafficking on a national scale. Pentameter is a joined up national approach to cover a whole range of activity from prevention to victim care, and seeks to make criminal gangs aware that the UK is a hostile environment for trafficking gangs. It is intended that this operation will assist in gathering intelligence about the scale and nature of this international problem.
By its nature, trafficking is a crime which operates across national borders and often involves organised crime networks. Thus partnership working and the sharing of information and intelligence with national and international law enforcement agencies are essential to identifying what is happening, and to dealing effectively with those who are involved.
HMIC is particularly concerned with the growth of this heinous crime. It is important that a concerted effort is made by all law enforcement agencies and their partners to impact on this criminal behaviour. HMIC will include action on human trafficking as part of the primary and review inspection process.
Confiscation of Assets / Proceeds of Crime Act
Using the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act, almost £10 million has been seized from criminals since it was introduced in 2003. In the past year alone a total of £4.8 million has been recovered from criminals. The Act brought with it increased powers to target cash, bank accounts, property and investments.
The Crown Office Financial Crime Unit ( FCU) deals with the confiscation of the proceeds of crime following conviction. It has recouped £3.4 million from 92 confiscation orders against convicted drug dealers, money launderers and fraudsters during the past financial year.
In the same period the courts ordered the recovery of £1.4 million following proceedings by the Civil Recovery Unit ( CRU). This is money which the courts concluded was gathered as the result of a variety of types of criminal activity.
The FCU raised restraint proceedings in 175 cases in the year to 31 March 2006. While these cases are still proceeding in the courts, the total value of assets restrained is estimated at more than £16 million. As well as cash this includes expensive jewellery, quad bikes and a half-share in a fishing vessel.
By proactively targeting the assets of criminals the police service in Scotland can have a real impact on those who would wish to pursue a life of crime. The service has recognised that serious organised crime groups pose a significant threat to the stability and prosperity of Scotland's communities and has identified more than £5.8 million of realisable assets for consideration of restraint. This action and a constant review of criminal assets will ensure that Scotland is not a soft target for career criminals.
These measures are leading to the more effective recovery of the proceeds of crime. This should boost public confidence in the criminal justice system, undermine harmful so-called role models in our communities and deprive criminals of their working capital.
HMIC notes that section 303 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 ( POCA 2002) has been amended to reduce the minimum cash seizure threshold from £5000 to £1000. The definition of 'cash' in the Act includes items such as cheques, bankers drafts, bearer bonds and notably foreign currency.
It is clear that lowering the threshold to £1000 will result in a greater number of seizures under the Act. HMIC is pleased to note this positive step in the fight against crime.
Preventing and investigating most types of wildlife crime is a statutory duty of the police. It is a particularly specialised field and investigations are very often carried out in conjunction with other statutory agencies or non-governmental organisations.
Scotland's wildlife and natural environment are protected principally via the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. However this legislation has now been brought up to date by the Nature Conservation Act 2004. Reform was necessary not only to plug loopholes in the existing statute but also to reflect the degree to which nature conservation thinking and policy has moved on in the last two decades.
There are some 90 officers across the eight Scottish Forces and the MOD Police in Scotland who are designated as police wildlife liaison officers; two police officers and two support officers have this role on a full time basis. Police wildlife liaison officers have built up considerable experience in the investigation of wildlife crime.
HMIC has noted with concern that the number of people reported to Scottish courts for cruelty to animals has increased significantly. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( SSPCA) has released figures which indicate that 115 cases were reported during 2005 compared to 51 in 2004 and the number of investigations carried out by the organisation increased from 7,798 to 8,206 in 2005.
The organisation cited examples of a roe deer being chased by a group of teenagers into the Forth and Clyde canal, shot with an air gun and then kicked, breaking the animal's jaw. In another example teenagers shot a nesting swan with an air gun and injured it so badly that it will not fly again.
In response to concerns regarding this type of criminality ACPOS set the following objectives for dealing with Wildlife Crime for 2006/08:
- continue to improve the provision, conditions, effectiveness and versatility of wildlife crime officers within the Scottish Police Service;
- continue to improve the level and diversity of training on wildlife and relevant environmental law and its practical application to all police officers and relevant members of other enforcement agencies;
- maximise public awareness of wildlife and environmental law in order to ensure compliance and information flow;
- increase detection and conviction of offenders against wildlife and environmental law by making best use of intelligence-led policing and utilising, where appropriate, experts in other fields; and
- ensure that all wildlife and environmental crimes and incidents are properly recorded.
To enhance understanding of the issues and to improve partnership working the Scottish Police College runs a specific seminar designed to provide officers with an insight into the variety of crimes committed against Scotland's wildlife, as well as the unusual and difficult nature of their investigation.
HMIC is encouraged with the progress made to date and note has been taken of the objectives set by ACPOS in this area. HMIC will watch with interest the progression of these objectives.
Scottish Criminal Record Office ( SCRO)
The Scottish Criminal Record Office ( SCRO) provides and manages vital integrated information systems for the eight Scottish police forces and the wider criminal justice community within Scotland. At present it forms part of the Common Police Services. The organisation is made up of a range of different services, each one providing a central information handling or support service for its customers.
In April 2007 the creation of the Scottish Police Services Authority ( SPSA) will bring together these common services along with several others provided under the aegis of a single non-departmental public body. There is no doubt that as the Authority absorbs these responsibilities, changes to the structure and line management of disparate functions will be developed with the aim of providing the most efficient and effective arrangements possible. Notwithstanding such changes each of the individual functions currently undertaken by the SCRO will remain important and relevant to the support of policing and criminal justice. HMIC is pleased to be engaged in this debate.
Disclosure Scotland was set up under Part V of the Police Act 1997 to provide a disclosure service for people working with children and adults at risk in the public, private and voluntary sectors which enables employers to make safer and more informed recruitment decisions than was possible before. Whilst the unit sits in the SCRO structure, it is operationally separate from SCRO.
Disclosure Scotland has been working closely with the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland ( ACPOS) and the Scottish Executive on the recommendations made by Sir Michael Bichard following his Inquiry into the Soham murders. A great deal of work is being done to ensure that the service complies with the recommendations. The most notable recommendation for the disclosure service is the setting up of a Central Vetting and Barring Scheme. This will have the effect of reducing the number of checks required and putting in place a mechanism for notifying employers when subsequent convictions are recorded. Other recommendations include increasing the number of databases which Disclosure Scotland can access, both for confirmation of an applicant's identity and for criminal record checking. The ability of Disclosure Scotland to access conviction information from foreign countries is also being pursued.
The Scottish Fingerprint Service ( SFS) provides integrated national fingerprint identification and verification services and expert fingerprint witness provision to the Scottish criminal justice community through four centrally managed bureaux at Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The past year has seen the SFS move ahead in the first phases of the IDENT1 project, which will introduce a UK-wide database of fingerprints including palm capture and search capabilities. The new terminals required for the project have been introduced across the eight forces in Scotland and to date have processed in excess of 90,000 'Tenprint' fingerprint forms.
The SFS is actively involved in the design and implementation of fingerprint training on a UK wide level. Key elements of current SFS training programmes have been highlighted as models of best practice, particularly with regard to competency testing, the provision of expert Continuous Professional Development courses and the in-house training programmes delivered by the bureau trainer. Many of these elements have been incorporated into the new national training programme.
When SCRO is absorbed into the SPSA, the Scottish Fingerprint Service will become part of a newly created Scottish Forensic Service. This recognises a natural partnership with the common aims of both science and fingerprint examination disciplines being to provide expert examination, analysis, evidence and testimony for the criminal justice system.
Criminal Justice Information and Intelligence Support Bureau
The continued management and development of the Scottish Intelligence Database ( SID), the Criminal History System ( CHS) and the Automatic Number Plate Recognition ( ANPR) system has been the priority of staff in this burea. To assist all users, activity has centred on achieving the highest standards of data quality through audit and compliance procedures. Staff have continued to provide a 24/7 user support service in terms of fault reporting, user access assistance and specialist search advice.
Crimestoppers is an independent UK-wide charity working to stop crime. Members of the public who wish to provide information about crime or criminals can contact Crimestoppers on an anonymous hotline without fear of retribution or exposure.
The round the clock facility has been in operation for two years. The processes and procedures within the unit are continuously reviewed and refined, leading to a seamless flow of information between Crimestoppers and the eight Scottish police forces and the Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency through the Scottish Intelligence Database.
This way of dealing with anonymous information is unique in UK law enforcement terms and continues to produce positive results. HMIC notes that, during 2005/06, arrests have increased, £1.46 million worth of drugs and stolen property have been recovered and 18 firearms were taken off the streets as a result of Crimestoppers.
Crimestoppers presently sits within SCRO. When the latter body is absorbed into the SPSA and its functions demerged, care will need to be taken in considering where to locate the Scottish arm of this charity so that it maintains a visible independence from the police service in Scotland.
Serious Organised Crime Agency
The Serious Organised Crime Agency ( SOCA) is a new law enforcement agency with a UK wide remit to reduce the harm caused to people and communities by serious organised crime. It takes over the functions of the National Crime Squad ( NCS), the National Criminal Intelligence Service ( NCIS), the role of HM Revenue and Customs ( HMRC) in investigating drug trafficking and related criminal finance, and some of the functions of the UK Immigration Service ( UKIS) in dealing with organised immigration crime. SOCA assumed its functions on 1 April 2006.
The SCDEA and Scottish police forces have signed a service level agreement with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which sets out how they will work together to combat serious organised crime. The strategic priorities for SOCA are set by the Home Secretary after having consulted Scottish Ministers.
A number of the identified serious organised crime threats to Scotland are reserved matters for the UK Government i.e. money laundering and organised immigration crime. On these reserved policy areas the Scottish Executive works with its counterparts in Whitehall to ensure that Scottish interests are taken into account. HMIC, as part of the primary and review inspection process, will examine the practical implementation of this agreement.
In May 2006, the third progress report on the Bichard Inquiry recommendations was published. This document highlighted that a great deal of progress had been made across the whole Bichard programme and that this work had been characterised by the close co-operation between departments and agencies involved. HMIC is pleased to note that the progress report records a strong commitment to improve the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults.
Significant progress has been made in a number of areas, including the introduction of a Code of Practice on the Management of Police Information in November 2005 ( MOPI). A Scottish version of this document is being prepared.
HMIC notes the extent of Scottish representation on the various working groups taking forward the recommendations, including appropriate programme boards, strategic user and implementation groups, the steering group organised by the Home Office, the Department for Education and Skills ( DfES), the Association of Chief Police Officers and the IMPACT* programme. HMIC also notes the role of the Scottish Bichard implementation group, which includes representation from ACPOS and across the relevant policy areas of our partners in the Scottish Executive and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA).
ACPOS has appointed a senior police officer to scope and evaluate the work taken forward through the Scottish Bichard implementation team working with Scottish forces and associated agencies. HMIC will, during primary and review inspections of forces and police agencies in Scotland, continue to audit compliance in this important area.
(* IMPACT is a nominal indexing software application currently operating in England and Wales and being trialled in Scotland. It contains a list of names or nominal records of persons known to the police in England and Wales. Nominal searches on the system identify police databases containing information on that person.)
HMIC notes the work ongoing by Scottish Ministers to bring forward a new vetting and barring regime to prevent those who are known to be unsuitable from gaining access to children or adults at risk through their work, while those who are unsuitable are detected as early as possible and prevented from continuing to work, or seeking work with the vulnerable.
In April 2007, the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency ( SDEA) will become the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency ( SCDEA). This change gives greater emphasis to its wider role in addressing serious organised crime including, but not exclusively, drug-trafficking. The Act will also give the Agency a legal status enabling it to employ staff directly.
The recent review inspection of the SDEA has confirmed that it continues to employ a range of specialist skills and intelligence gathering techniques to disrupt and arrest organised criminals. The Agency has adopted a progressive approach towards mainstreaming all aspects of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 ( POCA) within the structure and culture of the organisation. Leading by example and through skilled and innovative investigative techniques, the Scottish Money Laundering Unit ( SMLU) within the Agency developed national and international links to enhance ongoing financial investigations. By bringing the full weight of POCA to bear on serious organised crime, the Agency will continue to target the profits of crime and enhance the Scottish Executive's ability to recoup recovered criminal assets: using these to help strengthen and repair those communities hardest hit by drug dealing and violent crime.
Cross border, national and international criminality operates in a manner analogous to a legitimate business, and accordingly the Agency's operations have to transcend international borders. International task force operations are without doubt one of the most effective crime-fighting strategies now employed by the Agency and it has reaped the benefits of this over the past year.
There is no doubt that the work of the SDEA in tackling serious crime and drug related criminality has reflected well on the police service in Scotland. HMIC will watch with interest how the SDEA grows into its new responsibilities as the SCDEA and how it works in partnership with SOCA and other partners in the law enforcement environment.