Homicide rates in Scotland have dropped to an all time low

Homicides in Scotland have dropped to their lowest rate on record according to a 2015-16 report released by the Scottish Government.

According to the report, homicide occurrences in the country have decreased by eight per cent between the 2014-15 and the 2015-16 period, from 62 to 57 cases.

The police have kept homicide records since 1976, making the newly released figures the lowest in at least 40 years.

Speaking to The Student, Susan McVie, Professor of Quantitative Criminology at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law, commented that data from the past decade shows a statistically significant break from an “unenviable reputation for violence” in Scotland, the country named the “most violent in the developed world” by a 2005 United Nations report.

McVie went on to state that in 2004-5 Scottish homicide rates hit a record high before beginning a decline toward current figures.

“The precise reason for this dramatic reduction in homicide is not entirely clear, but it is likely to be related to other forms of violence because cases of attempted murder, serious assault, and robbery fell by similar amounts over the same period”, she told The Student.

“However, it is likely to be connected to some of the anti-violence policing strategies and policy responses put in place over the last decade by the government and police in Scotland,” McVie added.

McVie cited the establishment of the Violence Reduction Unit, Mentors Against Violence, Medics Against Violence, and the No Knives, Better Lives campaign as several of these initiatives.

However, she said that the eight per cent decrease in homicide cases does not qualify as statistically significant due to the small numbers involved.

“Nevertheless, this continues the trend in the right direction and it is hoped that violence will reduce further in Scottish communities”, she added.

Sara Skott, a PhD student in Criminology at the University of Edinburgh, follows homicide statistics in Scotland as part of her research.

Skott agreed that recent decreases in homicide cases are indeed evidence of a positive trend. However, she pointed out that to better understand and reduce future occurrences of violent cases, more information on specific types of homicide rates are necessary.

For example, Skott cited statistics showing that homicides committed in a public place have decreased at twice the rate of residential homicides.

Skott told The Student: “This [data] would suggest that although homicide is decreasing overall, and indeed is at a record low this year with 57 homicides, some types of homicide appear to be decreasing more than others.”

She continued: “It is therefore vital that we identify these different types of homicide in Scotland and compare them over time to really be able understand this crime, and of course, be able to prevent it.”

Further data from the report shows homicides are most frequently committed using sharp instruments, with this method present in half of all cases in Scotland.

Statistics also show that Glasgow saw the highest number of homicides in the country, with the city’s 14 homicides constituting approximately 25 per cent of the cases recorded throughout Scotland.

Glasgow, however, did see a 31 per cent decrease in homicide cases over the past decade, accounting for much of the steep drop seen in all Scottish homicide cases since 2006-07.

In a statement published on the Scottish Government’s website, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, stressed the importance of continuing efforts to reduce homicide rates.

Matheson stated: “While it is encouraging to see continued falls in homicide cases alongside the long-term decline in violent crime, the sustained efforts that have helped achieve this – through education and enforcement – must continue, because each of the lives lost is one life too many.”


Image: Siavash Ghadiri Zahrani

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The Student Newspaper 2016