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Changes in the age and gender profiles of those convicted of different types of crime associated with violence

 

Changes in the age and gender profiles of those convicted of different types of crime associated with violence between 2008-09 and 2017-18

Introduction

Violent crime has reduced in Scotland over the past decade.  This paper looks at the age profile of people convicted of non-sexual crimes of violence (NSCV), common assault and handling an offensive weapon using data from the Scottish Government’s Criminal Proceedings database. Information from the Scottish Government’s Recorded Crime Bulletins is also used for descriptive purposes.  The paper finds that, in Scotland, there has been a change in the age profile of people convicted of non-sexual crimes of violence (NSCV: includes Attempted murder and Serious Assault, Robbery, Homicide and Other Violence ), common assault (see definition) and handling an offensive weapon with a particular reduction in the peaks previously seen for people aged in their late teens and early twenties. 

Methodology

For each of the three types of crime investigated, we first consider overall trends in numbers of recorded crimes, percentage of crime cleared–up by the police, numbers of people proceeded against in court and numbers convicted in court.

We then consider whether the gender distribution of those convicted has changed over time. Finally we look at age crime curves for those convicted over time. If there was change in the gender profile of those convicted, we will look at age crime curves separately for males and females. If there was no change in gender we will look at a combined age crime curve (men and women).

The age crime curves show convictions per 1,000 population for each year of age. They are presented as two shapes, the darker curve representing 2008-09 and the lighter curve representing 2017-18. The mid-blue section illustrates where the two curves overlap.

Further detail on age crime curves for all types of convictions can be found here: https://scotland.shinyapps.io/sg-convictions/

1:            Non-sexual crimes of Violence

The number of non-sexual crimes of violence (NSCV) recorded by the police has decreased by 43% over the last 10 years, down from 12,612 in 2008-09 to 7,251 in 2017-18 (Figure 1). Over the same time period, the number of people convicted of a NSCV has decreased by 32%, meaning that a slightly higher proportion of recorded crimes now lead to a conviction than was the case 10 years ago. This may be linked to police clear up rates which have increased from 63.9% in 2008-09 to 76.1% in 2017-18.

Figure 1: Number of Non-sexual crimes of violence recorded by the police, number proceeded against and convicted in court and the percentage of crime cleared-up by the police 2008-09 to 2017-18

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There has been no change in the gender profile of those convicted of NSCV over the last 10 years, with males accounting for between 87 and 88 per cent of those convicted. In light of this, further analysis will concentrate only on the age profile of those convicted of NSCV. The median age of men convicted of NSCV has increased from 23 years in 2008-09 to 28 years in 2017-18. Similarly, the median age for women convicted of NSVC has increased from 26 years to 32 years.

Figure 2 illustrates the age profile of those convicted of NSCV by looking at the number of convictions per 1,000 population for each single year of age. The dark blue shape illustrates convictions per 1,000 population in 2008-09 and the light blue shape convictions per 1,000 population in 2017-18.

Figure 2: Non-sexual crimes of violence - convictions per 1000 population by year of age

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The dark blue shape is much larger than the light blue shape illustrating that overall, the number of convictions per 1,000 population has fallen since 2008-09. Figure 2 also helps us investigate the age profile of those convicted of NSCV. The biggest difference in the two shapes is accounted for by those aged 17-30. In particular, there were 3 times as many convictions for 18 year olds in 2008-09 compared to 2017-18

2:             Common Assault

The number of offences of Common Assault recorded by the police has decreased by 21% over the last 10 years and is now sitting at 58,335 (Figure 3). Meanwhile, the percentage of common assaults cleared up by the police has remained fairly stable at around 70%. Over the same time period, the number of people convicted in court of common assault has decreased by 28%. As a result of this consistent clear-up rate, the proportion of recorded crime leading to a conviction has remained relatively stable over the 10 year period.

Females accounted for 18% of those convicted of common assault in 2008-09; this had increased to 22% by 2017-18. Given this change, we will consider the age profile of men and women convicted of common assault separately. The median age of men convicted of common assault has increased from 26 years in 2008-09 to 31 years in 2017-18. Similarly, the median age for women convicted of common assault has increased from 27 years to 32 years.

Figure 3: Number of Common Assaults recorded by the police, number proceeded against and convicted in court and the percentage cleared-up by the police 2008-09 to 2017-18

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2.1          Common Assault (male convictions)

Figure 4 illustrates the age profile of males convicted of Common Assault by looking at the number of convictions per 1,000 male population for each single year of age. Overall the number of convictions per 1,000 population for men has fallen in the past decade, from 4.5/1,000 population in 2008-09 to 2.9/1,000 population in 2017-18. In 2008-09, convictions peaked at 18 years of age (with 20.2 convictions per 1,000 population) and decreased gradually with age. In 2018-19 however, the peak for young men had been replaced by a much different picture. Although there was a slight variation in convictions in different year groups, the number of convictions per 1,000 population was the same for 18 year old men as it was for 30 year old men (7.6 per 1,000). Thereafter, the conviction rate for males followed a very similar pattern to that seen in 2008-09.

Figure 4: Common Assault - convictions per 1000 population by year of age (male convictions)

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2.2          Common Assault (female convictions)

Figure 5 illustrates the age profile of females convicted of Common Assault. Overall, there has been a small change in the number of female convictions for common assault per 1,000 population over the past decade with 0.9 convictions per 1,000 population in 2008-09 and 0.75 convictions per 1,000 population in 2018-19. In 2008-09 we see convictions peaking at 6/1,000 for 17 year olds but by 2018-19, this figure had fallen to 2/1,000. Up to age 30 there were fewer convictions per 1,000 population in 2018-19 than there were in 2008-09. However, for almost every year after 30,  there were slightly more convictions per 1,000 population in 2018-19 than there were in 2008-09

Figure 5: Common Assault - convictions per 1000 population by year of age (female convictions)

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3:            Handling an offensive weapon

The number of crimes of Handling an Offensive Weapon recorded by the police has decreased by 60% over the last 10 years (down to 3,570 in 2017-18), whilst  police clear up rates have remained high (at around 97%). Over the same time period, the number of people convicted in court of Handling an Offensive Weapon has decreased by 58%.  Overall, the number of convictions per 1,000 population has fallen from 0.66 per 1,000 population in 2008-09 to 0.27 per 1,000 population in 2017-18. Despite clear up rates remaining high, the proportion of crimes of handling an offensive weapon that have resulted in a conviction has increased slightly over the last 10 years. (Note: for ease of comparison with previous years, the change in recording practice relating to handling an offensive weapon which was implemented in 2017-18 has not been applied to these figures).

Figure 6: Number of crimes of handling an offensive weapon recorded by the police, number proceeded against and convicted in court and the percentage cleared-up by the police 2008-09 to 2017-18

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In 2008-09, 6.8% of those convicted of Handling an Offensive Weapon were female, this had increased slightly to 9.8% by 2017-18. Although females accounted for a larger proportion of those convicted of Handling an Offensive Weapon in 2017-18 compared to 2008-09, they account for such a small number of convictions that they will not be analysed separately. The median age of men convicted of Handling an Offensive Weapon has increased from 24 years in 2008-09 to 30 years in 2017-18. Over the same time period, the median age for women convicted of Handling an Offensive Weapon has increased from 27 years to 30 years.

Figure 7 illustrates the age profile of those convicted of Handling an Offensive Weapon. Overall, the number of convictions per 1,000 population has fallen in the past decade, from 0.67/1,000 population in 2008-09 to 0.27/1,000 population in 2017-18.  In 2008-09, convictions peaked at 17 years of age (with 4.5 convictions per 1,000 population) and decreased gradually with age. In 2017-18 however, the peak for young people was much less distinct, peaking at 1.1 convictions per 1,000 population for 18 year olds. Thereafter, convictions fluctuated around 0.5/1,000  between the ages of 20 and 40 before decreasing gradually with age.

Figure 7: Handling an Offensive Weapon - convictions per 1000 population by year of age

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Conclusion

There has been a fall in convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence over the last decade, a drop in convictions for those aged under 30 has driven the overall drop in convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence.

There has also been a fall in convictions for common assault over the last decade. In males, this fall has been driven by a drop in convictions for those aged under 30. Overall there has been a very small decrease in female convictions for common assault in the last decade. However, this overall small decrease comprises a larger decrease in convictions for those females aged under 30 (most notably for 17 year olds) balanced by a small increase in convictions for most years from age 30. This has resulted in a much wider, more even spread of ages for females convicted of common assault.

There has been a fall in convictions for handling an Offensive Weapon over the last decade. The peak in convictions for 17 year olds has been replaced by a more even distribution of convictions between ages 20 and 40.

Over the ten year period 2008-09 to 2017-18, there has been a fall in convictions for all of the types of violence studied. In most cases the overall fall has been driven by a substantial fall in convictions for those aged 25 and under.