Crime and criminal justice statistics
- Data extracted in May 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: April 2017.
The statistics presented in this article summarise the latest developments for a range of specific categories of recorded crime within the European Union (EU). The article also looks at developments in the number of personnel involved in the different stages of the criminal justice system and the size of the prison population.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
Main statistical findings
The most recent Eurostat figures on crime and criminal justice statistics show that the levels of police-recorded intentional homicide and assault steadily decreased across the EU-28 (data on assaults available for 29 jurisdictions and data on intentional homicide available for 28 jurisdictions out of the total of 30 jurisdictions ) between 2008 and 2013, while the number of recorded rapes (available for 29 jurisdictions) increased (see Figure 1). The number of police-recorded offences of intentional homicide fell overall by 24 % between 2008 and 2014, while the number of rape offences increased by 37 % over the same period. For sexual assault (data available for 26 jurisdictions), the number of police-recorded offences in 2014 in the EU-28 was 8% higher than in 2008, although there was a decline between 2008 and 2011 followed by increases since 2012.
Police-recorded burglary (data available for 26 jurisdictions, excluding Estonia, Italy, Latvia and Lithuania) and drug trafficking (data available for 29 jurisdictions, excluding Ireland) offences displayed a relatively stable development between 2008 and 2014 in the EU-28, with a downward movement in the most recent years. For theft (data available for 29 jurisdictions, excluding Latvia) there was a fall in offences between 2008 and 2009, followed by a relatively stable development through to 2014, while for kidnapping (data available for 27 jurisdictions, excluding Denmark, Romania and Sweden) there was a large increase between 2008 and 2009 (mainly due to developments in Germany), followed by stability thereafter. For robbery the developments (for all 30 jurisdictions) were less obvious, with an initial fall between 2008 and 2009, an increase through to 2011 and then relatively strong falls in 2013 and 2014.
Recorded crime for non-sexual offences
For intentional homicide, assault, robbery, theft, burglary and unlawful acts involving controlled drugs or precursors, the levels of police-recorded criminal offences across the EU-28 in 2014 were lower than those observed in 2008 (see Tables 1–7 of the detailed tables). However, this does not necessarily indicate that there were regular year-on-year reductions for each offence, as developments during this period were varied and in some cases the overall falls were relatively small. Furthermore, some individual jurisdictions had different developments to the patterns observed for the EU as a whole.
Intentional homicide is defined as an unlawful death purposefully inflicted on a person by another person. Data on intentional homicide also include serious assault leading to death and death as a result of a terrorist attack. Attempted homicide, manslaughter, death due to legal intervention, justifiable homicide in self-defence and death due to armed conflict are excluded. Intentional homicide is reported fairly consistently across jurisdictions within the EU, with definitions varying less between countries than for other types of crime.
Police-recorded intentional homicide offences consistently decreased from 2008–14 (see Figure 1). The total number of intentional homicides recorded across the EU-28 (data available for 28 jurisdictions) in 2014 was 4 379, some 23.6 % less than the number of offences in 2008 (5 729) and 3.9 % less than in 2013 (4 556).
The numbers of intentional homicides recorded by the police in individual jurisdictions are shown in Table 1 of the detailed tables.
Assault refers to physical attack against the body of another person resulting in serious bodily injury; it excludes indecent/sexual assault, threats and slapping/punching. Assault leading to death is also excluded.
As for intentional homicide, there was also a reduction in the overall number of police-recorded assault offences in the EU-28 (data available for 29 jurisdictions) during the period 2008–13, although there was an increase in 2014 (see Figure 1). In comparison with 2008, there were 33.8 % fewer assault offences recorded by the police in the EU-28 in 2014.
The numbers of assaults recorded by the police in individual jurisdictions are shown in Table 2 of the detailed tables.
Robbery is defined for the purpose of this article as the theft of property from a person, overcoming resistance by force or threat of force. Where possible, muggings and theft with violence are included, whereas pick pocketing and extortion are excluded.
The development of police-recorded robbery offences over the period 2008–14 presented a less clear pattern, with fluctuations in recent years. Having fallen in 2009, reported levels of robbery in the EU-28 (data available for all 30 jurisdictions) increased in 2010 and 2011, but then decreased from 2012 onwards. In 2014, there was a fall of 8.8 % compared with 2013 (see Figure 2).
The numbers of robberies recorded by the police in individual jurisdictions are shown in Table 3 of the detailed tables.
Kidnapping is defined as unlawfully detaining a person or persons against their will (including through the use of force, threat, fraud or enticement) for the purpose of demanding for their liberation an illicit gain or any other economic gain or other material benefit, or in order to oblige someone to do or not to do something. Disputes over child custody are excluded from this definition.
There was a continuous downward development in the number of police-recorded kidnapping offences in the EU-28 (data available for 27 jurisdictions) between 2009 and 2012. However, in 2013 this pattern was reversed as there was an increase of 4.8 % followed by an increase of 5.8 % in 2014 (see Figure 2).
The numbers of kidnappings recorded by the police in individual jurisdictions are shown in Table 4 of the detailed tables.
Theft is defined as depriving a person or organisation of property without force with the intent to keep it. For the purpose of this article, theft excludes burglary, housebreaking, robbery and theft of a motor vehicle.
After a relatively strong fall in 2009 (mainly due to strong falls in Germany as well as England and Wales and despite a large increase in France), the level of police-recorded theft offences remained relatively stable across the EU-28 during the period 2009–14. The pattern of developments in the individual jurisdictions was split with nearly two thirds (19 jurisdictions) reporting a decline in their number of theft offences between 2008 and 2014, while the remainder (11 jurisdictions) recorded increases.
The numbers of thefts recorded by the police in individual jurisdictions are shown in Table 5 of the detailed tables.
Burglary refers to gaining unauthorised access to a part of a building, dwelling or other premises. It includes the use of force, with the intent to steal goods (breaking and entering), theft from a house, apartment or other dwelling, factory, shop or office, from a military establishment, or using false keys. However, it excludes theft from a car, from a container, from a vending machine, from a parking meter and from fenced meadows or compounds.
The number of police-recorded burglary offences across the EU-28 (data available for 26 jurisdictions) was also relatively stable during the period 2008–14, fluctuating only slightly. Looking at the most recent developments (see Figure 2), the number of burglary offences fell by 2.4 % in 2014 in the EU-28 (data available for 27 jurisdictions).
The numbers of burglaries recorded by the police in individual jurisdictions are shown in Table 6 of the detailed tables.
Unlawful acts involving controlled drugs or precursors
Unlawful acts involving controlled drugs or precursors include, for the purpose of this article, the illegal possession, cultivation, production, supplying, transportation, importing, exporting, financing and so on of drug operations which are not solely in connection with personal use.
After an increase in 2009, the number of police-recorded offences relating to unlawful acts involving controlled drugs or precursors in the EU-28 (all 30 jurisdictions) fell gradually during the period 2009–13. The most recent data available shows that this pattern continued in 2014, as the number of offences was almost unchanged, a fall of 0.3 % compared with a year before (see Figure 2).
The numbers of unlawful acts involving controlled drugs or precursors recorded by the police in individual jurisdictions are shown in Table 7 of the detailed tables.
Recorded crime for sexual violence
The number of police-recorded offences relating to sexual violence combines data for rape and for other sexual assault. Rape is defined as sexual intercourse without valid consent and sexual assault refers to sexual violence not amounting to rape. Sexual assault includes an unwanted sexual act, an attempt to obtain a sexual act, or contact or communication with unwanted sexual attention not amounting to rape. It also includes sexual assault with or without physical contact, including drug-facilitated sexual assault, sexual assault committed against a marital partner against her/his will, sexual assault against a helpless person, unwanted groping or fondling, harassment and threats of a sexual nature.
Between 2008 and 2014, the overall number of police-recorded offences of sexual violence increased by 16.6 % across the EU-28 (data available for 25 jurisdictions). After a fall in the number of police-recorded offences in 2009, the incidence of police-recorded sexual violence in the EU-28 rose slightly each year during the period 2010–12 (when it still remained below its level of 2008), but increased more rapidly in 2013 and 2014. For example, in 2014 (data available for 28 jurisdictions, see Figure 2), the number of police-recorded offences of sexual violence in the EU-28 rose by 12.2 %. The overall increase in the number of police-reported offences of sexual violence in recent years is particularly influenced by the rise in offences reported in the United Kingdom.
The number of police-recorded rape offences increased at a relatively rapid pace during the period 2008–14 in the EU-28 (data available for 29 jurisdictions) such that it stood 36.9 % higher by the end of this period (see Figure 3). By contrast, the number of police-recorded offences for sexual assault across the EU-28 (data available for 26 jurisdictions) decreased at a rapid pace in 2009 (largely due to a decline in Germany), after which there were slight reductions in 2010 and 2011. This pattern was reversed in 2012 when there was a modest increase in the number of sexual assault offences. In 2013 there was a more pronounced increase (5.7 %) in the number of sexual assault offences in the EU-28, followed by a large increase (9.2 %) in 2014.
The overall numbers of police-recorded sexual violence, rape and sexual assault offences in individual jurisdictions are shown in Tables 8, 9 and 10 of the detailed tables.
Figure 4 shows considerable variations in police-recorded offences relating to sexual violence in terms of the sex of victims, suspects, persons prosecuted and persons convicted. Note there are a relatively large number of jurisdictions for which data with an analysis by sex are not available including those in several of the larger EU Member States. Most victims of sexual violence are female, whereas the suspects and offenders are mostly male.
Personnel in the criminal justice system
A large number of different occupations work within the criminal justice system. In this article the analysis covers the number of police officers, professional judges and prison personnel working in adult prisons, with data referring to the situation on 31 December of each year.
Police officers are defined as employees of public agencies, whose principal functions are the prevention, detection and investigation of crime and apprehension of alleged offenders. The definition excludes support staff such as secretaries and clerks. Professional judges are defined as both full-time and part-time official legal professionals, who have been recruited and are paid to practise as a judge. They are authorised to hear civil, criminal and other cases, including cases in appeal courts, and to make dispositions in a court of law. Non-professional judges such as lay judges and lay magistrates are excluded. The count of personnel in adult prisons refers to the number of individuals employed in penal or correctional institutions. The numbers include management, treatment, custodial and other personnel, such as those involved in prison maintenance or the provision of prison food.
Figure 5 shows recent developments in the number of personnel across the different stages of the criminal justice system (police, courts and prison).
The overall number of police officers in the EU-28 (consistent data available for 23 jurisdictions) decreased from 2009 to 2013 and increased slightly in 2014. Across the EU-28 (20 jurisdictions), the number of professional judges increased each year during the period 2008–13 and fell only slightly in 2014: the overall increase in the number of judges between 2008 and 2014 was 4.6 %. In contrast to the gradual rise in the number of professional judges, Figure 5 also shows that there was an overall reduction in the number of personnel working in adult prisons. The overall change in prison personnel between 2008 and 2014 across the EU-28 (data available for 21 jurisdictions) was a fall of 7.0 %.
The total numbers of police officers in individual jurisdictions are shown in Table 11 of the detailed tables, while Tables 14 and 17 show the total numbers of professional judges and the personnel in adult prisons.
There was a considerable imbalance in the gender distribution of the personnel working in the EU’s criminal justice system (see Figure 6), with women particularly under-represented in the police and prison services, but over-represented among professional judges.
In 2014, women accounted for 17.7 % of police officers across the EU-28 (data available for 23 jurisdictions). The share of women working in adult prisons was slightly higher, as they accounted for one quarter of the total across the EU-28 (data available for 19 jurisdictions), a share that was relatively stable between 2008 and 2014. By contrast, women accounted for a majority of the personnel among professional judges, with a 58.1 % share of the total in the EU-28 (data available for 23 jurisdictions) in 2014.
The numbers of male and female police officers are shown in Tables 12 and 13 of the detailed tables, while Tables 15 and 16 show the numbers of male and female judges and Tables 18 and 19 show the numbers of male and female personnel in adult prisons.
The data collected on prisons refers to all institutions under the authority of the prison administration where persons are deprived of their liberty. Centres for the detention of foreign citizens held pending an investigation into their immigration status, or for the detention of foreign citizens without a legal right to stay, are excluded.
The total number of prisoners in the EU-28 (data available for 27 jurisdictions) rose gradually each year between 2008 and 2011, stabilised in 2012, and then fell by 3.6 % in 2013 and by 3.5 % in 2014, such that the prison population in 2014 was 3.5 % below what it had been in 2008 (see Figure 7).
The number of prisoners in the EU-28 (23 jurisdictions) with foreign citizenship (note: they could be from another EU Member State) rose at a somewhat faster pace in 2009 and 2010, but started to decline already in 2011. By 2014 it was 8.6 % below the level it had been in 2008.
By contrast, there was a considerable contraction in the number of juvenile prisoners in the EU-28 (data available for 25 jurisdictions) during the period 2008–14. The number of juvenile prisoners fell by at least 4 % each year during the period under consideration, resulting in an overall reduction of 41.9 % between 2008 and 2014. The largest reduction in juvenile prisoners occurred in 2014, when a fall of 14.2 % was recorded.
The total prison population for individual jurisdictions is shown in Table 20 of the detailed tables, while the juvenile prison population is shown in Table 23, and the numbers of prisoners by citizenship (national and foreign citizens) are shown in Tables 24 and 25.
Men account for the vast majority of the prison population Across the EU-28 (data available for 26 jurisdictions, excluding Belgium, Estonia, Cyprus and Luxembourg) adult male prisoners accounted for 95 % of the total adult prison population in 2014, a share that had remained relatively stable since 2008.
The numbers of male and female prisoners are shown in Tables 21 and 22 of the detailed tables.
Data sources and availability
The data shown in this article were collected through the first Eurostat-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) joint data collection on crime and criminal justice statistics using the Survey on Crime Trends developed by the UNODC and additional data requested by Eurostat. More information relating to additional data and analysis may be found here.
Countries were asked to adhere to standard definitions when assembling the figures and to provide details of any divergences.
Figures for the United Kingdom are reported separately (for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) owing to the existence of three separate jurisdictions.
The data are taken from administrative records. However, direct comparisons of crime levels based on the absolute figures are influenced by many factors, including:
- different legal and criminal justice systems;
- rates at which crimes are reported and recorded (by the police);
- differences in the point at which crime is measured (for example, when reported to the police, on identification of suspects, etc.);
- differences in the rules by which multiple offences are counted;
- differences in the list of offences that are included in the overall crime figures.
Note that official recorded crime statistics exclude crimes that have not been reported to the police.
Figures for the prison population may also be affected by many factors, including:
- number of cases dealt with by the courts;
- the percentage receiving a custodial sentence;
- the length of the sentences imposed;
- the size of the population on remand;
- the date of the survey, especially where amnesties apply.
Comparing crime and criminal justice statistics from different jurisdictions is therefore difficult and can be misleading. For this reason, direct comparisons between jurisdictions have been avoided and the focus in this article has instead been on developments over time. Such comparisons over time are considered more reliable, on the assumption that the characteristics of the recording system within a given country remain fairly constant over time. However, there are many exceptions, with methods changing over time and this causes breaks in the series.
When analysing time series for the EU-28, the data presented are systematically calculated on the basis of those jurisdictions for which data are available for the whole of the period under consideration (2008–14). As such, it is important to emphasise that the numbers presented do not always reflect recorded crime across all 30 different jurisdictions, due to missing data for one or more reference years; the missing information has been systematically footnoted and is also referred to in the supporting analysis.
However, results for the EU-28 can mask variations in individual jurisdictions. For this purpose, data relating to individual jurisdictions are presented in a set of detailed tables. Furthermore, detailed information concerning the data for individual jurisdictions is available in the reference metadata.
In order to identify developments over time, indices have been calculated using 2008 as a reference year:
- index Ii = index value for year i = (Ci/Creference) * 100
- Ci = value recorded for year i
- Creference = value recorded in the reference year.
Care should also be taken when considering small numbers. For example homicide rates may vary considerably between years, especially in countries with relatively low numbers of inhabitants.
Eurostat’s website allows users access to the detailed results of the Eurostat–UNODC joint data collection from 2008 and to the associated metadata. In addition, there are tables with older data up to 2007: total police-recorded crime is available from 1950, specific offences and the number of police officers from 1993, and information pertaining to the prison population from 1987.
As noted above, the comparability of data between countries is difficult to achieve and users are strongly advised to consult the metadata files when making any further analysis.
Eurostat received a mandate under the 2004 ‘Hague programme: strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union’ to develop comparable statistics on crime and criminal justice, and a series of measures towards this end have been defined in the European Commission’s Communication ‘Measuring Crime in the EU: Statistics Action Plan 2011-2015‘ (COM(2011) 713 final).
Further Eurostat information
- EU Trends in statistics on police-recorded crime and the criminal justice system, 2008–2013 — Statistics in Focus Issue 3/2015, published December 2015
- Crime and Criminal Justice — Statistics in Focus Issue 6/2012, published 18 January 2012
- Crime and Criminal Justice — Statistics in Focus Issue 58/2010, published 29 November 2010
- Crime and Criminal Justice — Statistics in Focus Issue 36/2009, published 29 May 2009
- Crime and Criminal Justice — Statistics in Focus Issue 19/2008, published 12 March 2008
Methodology / Metadata
- Crime and criminal justice (ESMS metadata file — crim_esms)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Developing a comprehensive and coherent EU strategy to measure crime and criminal justice: an EU Action Plan 2006–2010 (COM(2006) 437 final)
- Measuring Crime in the EU: Statistics Action Plan 2011–2015
- Council of Europe
- European Institute for Gender Equality
- European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
- European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics — 5th edition
- European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
- The Hague Programme: strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union (Official Journal C 53 of 3.3.2005, p.11)
- The Stockholm Programme — An open and secure Europe serving and protecting citizens (Official Journal C 115 of 4.5.2010, p.1)
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime — Data and analysis
- There is one jurisdiction in each of the EU-28 Member States except in the United Kingdom where there are three: England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland. As such, in total there are 30 jurisdictions within the EU-28.