Scottish Conservatives call for Scottish Government to reform ‘inconsistent’ classification of violent crime
Douglas Ross MSP - Image credit: Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Conservatives are calling for the Scottish Government to change the way it classifies violent crime in official statistics, describing the current system as “inconsistent”.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross has written a critical letter to the Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, regarding the distinction between violent crime and lesser offences recorded in national figures.
This follows an exchange between the two on the subject in the Scottish Parliament last week.
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The Conservatives says the figures mislead the public because statistics for violent crime do not include, for example, weapons offences and common assault, which are classified under the lesser category of ‘miscellaneous offences’.
Crimes classified as common assault may not result in any injury at all, but could also be serious enough to cause injury such as broken nose or unconsciousness.
The difference in bringing all the figures together would be instead of 6,775 crimes of violence, when the other offences are included, it produces a much higher number of 68,482.
Ross said: “The inconsistent use of ‘violent crime’ by the Scottish Government is at best confusing and at worst misleading.
“The SNP should consider implementing a joined-up, common sense and transparent approach on this issue so that the public can have full confidence in crime statistics.
“The current spin from the SNP does a disservice to tens of thousands of victims of violence and fails to provide an accurate overall picture of violent crime in Scotland.”
However, the Scottish Government argues that this is a long-standing way of classifying crime figures.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “These claims are inaccurate - all recorded crimes and offences are counted and published by independent statisticians, with no involvement from ministers, and the distinction applied to crimes and offences has been in place since the 1920s.
“Violent crime has more than halved since 2006-07, and common assault has fallen by a quarter.
“This is backed up by the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey – which asks people directly about their experiences of violence in Scotland and shows a 41 per cent fall since 2008-09 in the number of violent incidents experienced.”
Following a recommendation by HMICS in 2014, the Scottish Crime Recording Board is currently reviewing whether the current crime groupings reflect the changing nature of crime and the public perception of crime.
One of the reasons for that recommendation was concern about the classification of common assault.
The HMICS Crime Audit 2016 notes: “If crime groupings are to be revised, one option may be to re-categorise common assaults as a crime under Group 1 [non-sexual crimes of violence].
“This may lead to crime statistics providing a more accurate picture as the extent of violent crime in Scotland.”