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Statistical Release Crime and Justice Series: Homicide in Scotland, 2008-09

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1. This Statistics Release gives details on cases of homicide - that is murder and culpable homicide. Causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs are excluded. In 2008-09 there were 31 such crimes recorded by the police, including one of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

2. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force on 6 April 2008 and sets out a new offence for convicting an organisation where a gross failure in the way activities were managed or organised, results in a person's death. This applies to a wide range of organisations across the public and private sectors. For 2008-09, one such corporate homicide case was reported in Scotland.

3. The summary figures presented are derived from information provided by the police, on each case they initially record as homicide. A single case of homicide is counted for each act of murder or culpable homicide, irrespective of the number of perpetrators or victims.

4. A homicide case is included against the year in which it is recorded by the police. This is not necessarily the year in which the offence took place, the year in which the accused is brought to trial for the crime, or the year in which the case is finally disposed of by the courts.

5. A single case of homicide is counted for each incident involving murder or culpable homicide irrespective of the number of perpetrators or victims. Where more than one person is accused of killing one or more victims, the main accused for the purposes of these analyses is the one who received the severest penalty. If more than one possible main accused is identified, then the first recorded on the statistical return is selected. Similarly if a person is accused of killing more than one victim, the main victim is the one for which the accused received the severest penalty, or where more than one possible main victim can be identified the first one recorded on the statistical return is selected.

6. The figures given in this Statistics Release are as known to the Scottish Government in January 2010. The initial classification of a case as homicide is made by the police; this will generally be murder. This classification may be altered as a result of decisions taken in the course of criminal proceedings. Some cases initially classified as homicide will, on the basis of criminal proceedings, no longer be classified as such at a later date. This happens in cases where it is found that a homicide had not in fact taken place at all, for example where the main accused person is found guilty of a lesser offence, such as serious assault; or where the decision has been made not to proceed with the case, for example if it is concluded that the victim committed suicide. For these reasons, and as a result of continual data checking, the figures for 2009-10 and for previous years which will appear in the next bulletin may differ slightly from those given here.

7. Due to changes in collection methods and resourcing issues it has not been possible to carry out matching of homicide returns from police forces with court proceedings for 2008-09 data. There may be a small overcount of the number of cases currently recorded as homicide as some cases may no be longer classified as homicide. There may also be a small undercount of accused where additional accused have been identified after the homicide was recorded. It is hoped that matching with court proceedings data and publication of related tables will be carried out by the end of 2010.

8. For those cases with multiple accused which are currently recorded as homicide, the co-accused are included in the statistics in this bulletin regardless of whether or not they were ultimately charged with homicide. For example if the main accused person is found guilty of homicide by the court but the co-accused are found guilty of serious assault then the co-accused continue to be counted as persons accused of cases currently recorded as homicide.

9. In considering the relationship of the main accused person to a victim, partner includes: spouse, separated or divorced spouse, cohabitee, lover, boy/girlfriend but not necessarily ex -boyfriend/girlfriend pre-2000/01, as these may have been recorded as simply acquaintances. Partner figures for 2000/01 onwards do include ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.

10. The motive is as determined by the police. For homicides recorded before 2000 information was collected on up to two motives. For simplicity of presentation, only one motive for killing has been selected for each accused person. Where more than one motive was recorded, the first one given has been selected as the main motive unless it was a rage or quarrel, in which case the second one given has been selected. Similarly only one method of killing has been selected for each victim. The main method is taken to be the most serious of those methods recorded, in the following order of priority: shooting, sharp instrument, blunt instrument, hitting and kicking, strangulation, other. Sharp instrument includes knives, swords and other pointed or edged weapons. The main method of poisoning includes the use of drugs, gas and carbon monoxide poisoning.

11. The population data used to calculate the rate figures given in Tables 1, 3 and 6 and in Chart 1 are the relevant mid-year population estimates prepared by the General Register Office for Scotland: http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/publications-and-data/population-estimates/index.html.

12. The percentage figures given in tables and charts have been independently rounded, so they may not always sum to the relevant sub-totals or totals.

13. Further information on Crime and Justice statistics within Scotland can be accessed at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice.

14. Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff - more information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland can be accessed at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/About.

15. The following symbol is used throughout the tables in this bulletin.

- = Nil