You're viewing our new website - find out more

Publication - Statistics publication

Drug seizures and offender characteristics: 2016-2017

Published: 27 Mar 2018
Justice Directorate
Part of:
Law and order, Statistics

Statistical bulletin on drug seizures recorded by Police Scotland in 2016-2017.

19 page PDF

464.0 kB

19 page PDF

464.0 kB

Supporting files

Drug seizures and offender characteristics: 2016-2017
Analysis of the characteristics of drug possession crimes

19 page PDF

464.0 kB

Supporting files

Analysis of the characteristics of drug possession crimes

  • Information about the offenders of drug possession crimes and how they came to the attention of the police was also recorded in the sampling process. For the purposes of increased accuracy, sample data for 2014-15 to 2016-17 has been combined, resulting in a sample of 1,200 records.

Characteristics of offenders, 2014-15 to 2016-17

  • The vast majority of drug possession crimes were committed by one offender, with only 3% of crimes having multiple offenders (these situations can occur where offenders collectively admit to ownership of the seized drugs, or if no one admits to ownership).
  • The vast majority of drug possession crimes were committed by males or all male groups (86%).
  • The median age of a drug possession offender was 29 years old. Table 7 shows the age distribution of the offenders in the sample.
  • Almost two thirds (65%) of offenders are in the 20-29 and 30-39 years age groups. Offenders are far more likely to come from these two age groups than would be expected based solely on their size within the general population (26%).
  • In 23% of drug possession crimes there was a reference to someone being either under the influence of alcohol or drugs or having consumed alcohol or drugs. In the majority of these cases it refers to the offender, however in a small number of cases it is in reference to another party.

Table 7: Age distribution of the offenders of drug possession crime 2014-15 to 2016-17

Age group of offender Percentage of offenders Percentage of total population 1
0-19 15.9% 21.4%
20-29 37.1% 13.7%
30-39 28.0% 12.6%
40-49 14.4% 13.5%
50+ 4.6% 38.8%

1. Population figures are based on an average of the National Records of Scotland mid-year estimates from 2014-2016

How Police Scotland became aware of the drug possession crime

  • The circumstances leading to a drug possession seizure have been recorded based on the details of the event within the crime record. As crime records have not been created specifically for this purpose, it has been necessary on occasion to make assumptions around certain aspects of what happened. As such this information should be seen as a broad illustration, rather than a precise measure.
  • From 2014-15 to 2016-17, it is estimated that approximately half (49%) of drug possessions in the sample were detected by police while on routine patrol. The majority of these were cases where police officers on patrol had a suspicion or observed that the offender was in possession of drugs, with this category accounting for 37% of all records reviewed. A further 13% of records involved police on patrol dealing with another crime, offence or incident and finding drugs while doing this.
  • 28% of drug possessions were assessed to be found as a result of police responding to a report of a crime, offence or another reported incident, either in relation to the drugs offence or for another matter (either criminal or non-criminal). A further 21% of drug possession seizures were made by police during investigations into an earlier crime, offence or incident.

Other information about the drug seizure

  • 5% of crime records for drug possession made reference to the involvement of NHS services. This involvement was not necessarily for the offender of the drug possession crime, and will not necessarily be linked to the use of drugs.
  • More than one crime was recorded in 40% of records in the sample. The additional crimes recorded are not necessarily committed by the same person responsible for the drug possession crime, but would have related to the same incident. In 60% of the records where another crime was recorded, at least one of the other crimes was also in relation to drug possession or supply.
  • Drug seizures were more common over the weekend, with Fridays and Saturdays accounting for 20% and 19% respectively.
  • The most common location for drugs to be seized from an offender was the street, with 49% of records reviewed having this locus. Dwellings were the next most common locus, with 28% of seizures.