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Racist Incidents Recorded by the Police in Scotland, 2004-05 to 2008-09


3. Notes on the statistics used in this bulletin

3.1 Background

In response to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, the then Scottish Executive produced an action plan to progress the recommendations set out in the MacPherson report, which included the setting up of a statistical collection covering racist incidents.

The definition of a racist incident as given by Sir William MacPherson in his Report on the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry is:

" A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person."

In the context of the data for this bulletin, the above definition was used.

3.2 Returns

The return from which figures in this bulletin are taken is a simple count of the number of incidents recorded by the police and the crimes, victims and perpetrators arising from these incidents. Only returns from the eight Scottish home forces are included in this bulletin.

3.3 Recording Issues

In an incident, one or more victims may be involved, and there may be one or more perpetrators. There may be no criminal element, or several crimes or offences may occur. For example, a house may be broken into and vandalised and the occupants assaulted - i.e. three offences in total and all of the offences are counted.

In Scotland, assault is a common law offence. In order to distinguish between serious and minor assaults, police forces use a common definition of what constitutes a serious assault. Definitions are listed in paragraph 3.6.

During the preparations of the previous bulletin, published March 2009, it was discovered that a small number of duplicate records was present in the database. This issue has now been resolved but has resulted in some minor revisions to the figures for 2004-05 to 2007-08.

Quality assurance checks during the preparation of this bulletin has shown that there is an inconsistency in the number of crimes reported by the eight Scottish police forces. Some forces have reported only the racist crimes associated with the racist incidents and others have reported all crimes associated with the racist incident. As a result there may be an over count of the number of racially motivated crimes. Further work will be undertaken to address this issue prior to the next publication.

Due to changes in Lothian and Borders recording practices, the classification used to describe the location of an incident has resulted in an increase in the number of incidents being recorded at 'sporting venues' and 'other businesses'. This corresponds to a decrease in the number of incidents recorded at locations classified as 'shops'. These variations do not represent a change in the locations crime are being committed. Further work will be undertaken to address this issue prior to the next publication.

3.4 Reporting Practices

These statistics do not record every occurrence of racist incidents in Scotland. Not all incidents are reported to the police. The 2008-09 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey estimated that approximately 38 per cent of all crimes came to the attention of the police.

3.5 Crimes and offences cleared up

The definition of "cleared up" is noted below. This definition came into force with effect from 1 April 1996.

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.

3.6 Definitions

Racially-aggravated - the offender evinces towards the person affected malice and ill-will based on that person's membership (or presumed membership) of a racial group; or the course of conduct or action is motivated (wholly or partly) by malice and ill-will towards members of a racial group based on their membership of that group.

Racially-aggravated harassment - a racially-aggravated course of conduct, amounting to harassment

Racially-aggravated conduct - to act in a manner, including speech, which is racially aggravated and which causes, or is intended to cause, a person alarm or distress.

Serious Assault - A serious assault is an assault in which the victim sustains an injury resulting in detention in hospital as an in-patient for the treatment of that injury, or any of the following injuries, whether or not detained in hospital; fractures (mean the breaking or cracking of a bone), internal injuries, severe concussion, loss of consciousness, lacerations requiring sutures which may lead to impairment or disfigurement.

Please note - nose is cartilage, not bone, so a 'broken nose' should not be classified as a serious assault unless it meets one of the other criteria.

Ethnicity - forces were asked to use the standard 13 groups listed below to record the ethnic group of victim and perpetrator. An individual is asked to 'self declare' their ethnic origin.

Ethnic Groups collected:

Ethnic Groups collected

Incident - an incident is any communication by whatever means about a matter which comes to the police attention which they may be required to act upon.

Crime - an act committed in violation of the law (common law or statute). Any single incident may include a number of crimes, or there might be no criminal element.

Victim - in any incident, there could be one or more victims.

Perpetrator - in any incident, there could be one or more perpetrators.

The following totals indicate the data collected. Note that crimes, victims and perpetrators can have multiple entries per incident as well as multiple entries with one another. (i.e. one crime may have several victims/perpetrators):

Total incidents, crimes, victims and perpetrators, by financial year, 2004-05 to 2008-09

Total incidents, crimes, victims and perpetrators, by financial year, 2004-05 to 2008-09

3.7 Classification

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 Government to collect criminal statistics contains about 360 codes. These are grouped in the bulletin as shown on page 12.

3.8 Scottish Crime Recording Standard

It is expected that the numbers of crimes would have been affected by the implementation (from 1 April 2004) of the Scottish Crime Recording Standard ( SCRS), which means that no corroborative evidence is required initially to record a crime related incident as a crime if so perceived by the victim. This was expected to increase the numbers of minor crimes recorded by the police, such as minor crimes of vandalism, minor assaults and breach of the peace.

Previously, where there were crimes which the victim did not wish the police to actively investigate (for instance, if they were concerned that this could lead to more trouble), the crime itself would not have been recorded. Therefore the SCRS is thought to have caused an increase in the number of crimes recorded where there is no real possibility of clearing up the crime, which has an impact on the clear up rates.

3.9 Census figures for Scottish Population 2001

The following table gives the most recent census figures for the ethnicity of the population of Scotland.

Scottish Population by Ethnic Group, 2001

Scottish Population by Ethnic Group, 2001

Source: General Register Office for Scotland, Analysis of Ethnicity in the 2001 Census