Homicide Rates in Scotland

Homicide rates
Homicide rates are often regarded as a useful indicator of levels of violence in any society, since the figures for murders are held to be especially accurate and unlike the statistics for other types of crime they can more reliably be compared across countries.

In 2009-10 there were 78 cases recorded as homicide by the police [17], (homicide includes murder and culpable homicide [18]). These cases resulted in the death of 79 victims, 20 fewer than in 2008-09. The number of homicide victims per million population has fallen from 22 in 2007- 08, 19 in 2008-09 to 15 in 2009-10. Although homicide rates in Scotland remain high, it is at its lowest level since around 1975 [19].
The largest decrease in the number of homicide cases between 2008-09 and 2009-10 was in Strathclyde, from 59 to 43. Fifty-five per cent of homicide cases recorded in 2009-10 took place in the Strathclyde Police Force area. Twenty cases occurred in Glasgow City.

For the latest homicide data for Scotland, please see Homicide rates in Scotland 2010-2011 published by the Scottish Government in December 2011. These figures show that there were 97 victims of homicide in 2010 – 2011 in Scotland, an increase of 18% on the previous period 2009-2010.

F I G U R E 6: Number of homicide victims and accused, 1998-1994 and1995-96 to 2009-10


Note: The data excludes the case of the Lockerbie disaster (1988) in which 270 victims were killed, but includes the 17 victims of the Dunblane tragedy (1996). The data sets changed from calendar to financial years between 1994 and 1995-96.
Source: Abstracted from: Homicides in Scotland, Government Statistics series from 1997 to 2009- 10, published 1998 to 2010 [SCCCJ 2011].

Of the 78 homicides recorded:

  •  43 took place in Strathclyde (down from 59 in the previous year).
  • 12 took place in Lothian and Borders (up from seven the previous year).
  • Seven took place in Tayside (the same as in the previous two years).
  • Five took place in Grampian (down from eight the previous year).
  • Five took place in Fife (the same as in the previous year).
  • No case was recorded in Dumfries and Galloway.

The homicide rate for men was 21 victims per one million (28 the previous year) compared with 10 per million (10 last year) for women. The age group with the highest rate of victims at 45 per million was men aged 21 to 30 (compared with 61 per million for that age group last year). Homicide levels have fluctuated greatly over preceding years. (figure 6) They were consistently lower in the years between 1930 and 1960 and then gradually increased reaching a peak in 1995-96. Since then they have fluctuated in the range between 93 and 137 victims annually. Only in the last two years have we seen significant year on year reductions. Over the last five years the annual average was 101. In the five years preceding (2000-01 to 2004-05) the average number of victims was 118. Nearly half (49%) of the total of 118 persons accused in homicide cases in 2009-10 were reported to have been drunk or under the influence of drugs at the time. Of these, 33% were drunk, 4% were on drugs and 12% were both drunk and on drugs; 16% were reported not to have been under the influence of drink or drugs. In 35% of homicide cases it was not known if the accused was drunk or under the influence of drugs.

Seven victims (all males) were reported to have been killed in drug-related homicide cases in 2009-10. “Drug-related” covers a murder motivated by a need to obtain drugs or money for drugs, a killing of a consumer or supplier of drugs or a murder as a consequence of rivalry within the drugs trade. In 44% of homicides (35 victims) a sharp instrument was used. Whilst this figure is down from 58% in 2008-09, it still remains, by a factor of three, the most common method of killing. The two next most common method of killing was hitting and kicking and use of a blunt instrument (both with 10 victims each). There were two homicide victims of shootings. The second most common method of killing for female victims was strangulation/asphyxiation (seven victims). The most common was with a sharp instrument (eight victims). For 78% (61) of the homicide victims recorded in 2009-10, the main accused was known to them either as an acquaintance (53%), a partner (17%) or a relative (9%). 15 (19%) victims were killed by a stranger. For homicides recorded in the last ten years, 41% of female victims aged between 16 and 70 were killed by their partner (6% for male victims). The majority, 60%, of male victims aged 16 to 70 were killed by an acquaintance (21% for female victims). 8% of male victims and 16% of female victims were killed by a stranger 20.

For International Comparisons, please see the next page.


17 Homicide in Scotland, 2009-10. Statistics Release, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, 13 December 2010. (Table 1)

18 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. [5.6] 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. [5.4] Causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs are excluded. In 2009-10 there were 26 such crimes recorded by the police in Scotland. [5.1]. Notes to Homicide in Scotland, 2009-10.
19 Similar levels of homicide were recorded during the period 1969 to 1986, with higher figures from 1976, and generally sustained reductions prior to 1969.

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