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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S6W-03338
Asked by: Stephen Kerr, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Date lodged: 27 September 2021


To ask the Scottish Government what annual data it collects on attacks and/or assaults on police officers, and how this is broken down.

Current status: Answered by Keith Brown on 13 October 2021


The Scottish Government collects and publishes annual information on Common assault of emergency workers within two National Statistics bulletins.

The first is Recorded Crime in Scotland [1] . Table A8 of the Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2020-21 National Statistics shows the latest 10 year trend in Common assault of an emergency worker offences for Scotland and this information can also be broken down by local authority area. It should be noted that these figures will not include certain attacks or assaults on emergency workers (for example should an emergency worker be assaulted and sustain a serious assault level injury, this would be recorded as a serious assault). From previous research into common assault and further information published by Police Scotland, the vast majority of police recorded offences of Common assault of an emergency worker relate to police officers.

The second is Criminal Proceedings in Scotland [2] . The number of people proceeded against and people convicted in Scottish courts for assaults against emergency workers under various criminal offences are published in additional tables [3] alongside the annual National Statistics publication. Assaults against police officers may be charged under a range of statutory offences including under section 90(1) of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, section 1 of the Emergency Worker(s) Act (Scotland) 2005, and Section 89(1) of the Police Act 1996. People could be also proceeded against under Section 41(1) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 for offences committed prior to the introduction of the Police and Fire Reform Act. Over 1,300 people in Scotland had a main conviction for assaulting a police officer under these acts in 2019-20. In addition, serious assaults against police officers may be charged under common law of assault and counted as serious assaults in the publication. We cannot determine if a proceeding for serious assault was against a police officer.

Note that the Criminal Proceedings data shows the main conviction in a proceeding, which is the charge that received the most serious sentence. This means that some charges for assaulting a police officer may not be recorded in the publication, as they weren’t the main charge.

Care should be taken when comparing different data sources relating to the criminal justice system. For example, recorded crime statistics count crimes and offences at the time that they came to the attention of Police Scotland while criminal proceedings statistics report on cases which have concluded in court. This means that a crime may be recorded by the police in one year and court proceedings concluded in a subsequent year. In addition, the criminal proceedings statistics only count the main charge in a proceeding, but a person may be proceeded against for more than one crime or a set of crimes with more than one victim. There is also the possibility that the crime recorded by the police may be altered in the course of judicial proceedings.