When statistics are published showing that crime is falling, some people often feel that this doesn’t match the experience in their own communities.
This feeling was reinforced by a recent report published by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland – whose job it is to improve policing – which appears to suggest that the number of serious assaults taking place in Scotland is not being accurately recorded.
Currently, due to the guidelines given to police officers, it is simply the severity of the injury sustained by the victim that determines whether an assault is a serious or common assault. The nature of the incident is often not taken into account.
Officers said this can result in a crime being recorded which does not accurately reflect what happened. For example, a person is stamped on the head several times but because he sustains no concussion, lacerations or broken bones, the incident is put down as a common assault.
In light of their findings the HM Inspectorate recommended that Police Scotland along with the Scottish Government and other Criminal Justice Partners work together to review the definition of serious assault. Last week in Parliament I renewed that call when I quizzed the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill.
We need this review to ensure we get an accurate picture of the number of serious assaults being committed in Scotland. We also need it to ensure that the crime being recorded reflects the crime committed. If we don’t do this, victims and the public will continue to lose faith in the Justice System.