Close-up of a notepad with word 'homicide' written with pencil and syringe with very shallow depth of field
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Drug-related murders

EMCDDA report finds that in 13% of all English & Welsh homicides, both murderer and victim were drug dealers.

Analysis of drug-related homicides

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has just (25 May 2018) published its first analysis of drug-related murder.

Unfortunately, the main conclusion of Drug-related homicide in Europe: a first review of the data and literature is that most European governments don’t record data about drug-related murders and the 10 countries which do, use different definitions.

The EMCDDA is pushing for a unified approach. However, there are some interesting facts and figures on drug-related homicides in the UK which are the focus of this blog post.

Conclusion

Some fairly dismal statistics under which lie a great deal of personal tragedy. It is important to remember that, along with the recent big increase in drug-related deaths by overdose, every year a significant number of drug users and drug dealers lose their lives in drug-related homicides.

UK drug-related murders

Data on homicide in the United Kingdom is published separately for Northern Ireland, England and Wales and Scotland. However, “When men murder women” a 2015 study conducted by Dobash and Dobash focuses on murder cases (no manslaughter cases are included) in England, Wales and Scotland. In terms of male-male homicides, the  authors found that 19 % of the perpetrators were under the influence of drugs during the homicide. In the case of intimate partner murder, this is 8 %.

England & Wales

Data on drug-related homicides (DRH) was first published in the February 2016 publication of the annual ONS compendium “Focus on violent crimes and sexual offences” and covers the combined years ending March 2013 to March 2015, and contains figures on homicide suspects being intoxicated at the time of the homicide, homicide suspects motivated by the aim to obtain drugs or to steal drug proceeds, and offences in which perpetrator and victim were either both drug dealers or both drug users. 

In terms of psychopharmacological violence, the data shows that 10 % of all homicide suspects were under the  influence of both drugs and alcohol, while 4 % were intoxicated by drugs only.

Regarding homicide victims, these percentages are 7 % and 3 % respectively. In terms of economic-compulsive violence, the report shows that 3 % of the homicides were committed by the offender to obtain drugs. Another 3 % were committed to steal drug proceeds. Finally, regarding systemic violence, both offender and victim were drug dealers in 13 % of the homicide cases. In 4 % of the homicide offences, the offender and victim were both drug users.

Scotland

The picture of drug-related crime in Scotland is hard to decipher since there is not a separate category for DRH. However, the Scottish government does publishes an annual Homicide in Scotland report which focuses on murder and culpable homicide and covers the homicide-drug relationship. The report makes a distinction between ‘drug status’ and ‘drug-related motive’. The former contains figures on suspected perpetrator and victim being under the influence of drugs at the time of the homicide. The latter refers to:

homicide motivated by a need to obtain drugs or money for drugs, a homicide of a consumer or supplier of drugs, a homicide committed in order to steal proceeds of the drugs trade or a homicide as a consequence of rivalry between users and/or dealers within the drugs trade.

As you can see from the table below, in the latest avaialable year (2015/16), 12% of Scottish murder victims were classified by the EMCDDA as “victims of economic-compulsive/systemic homicide” – that is, their deaths were linked to either committing crime to fund drug use or drug dealing.

The table also shows that in two of the last six years (2010/11 & 2014/15) one in five Scottish murderers have been intoxicated by drugs and alcohol when they took someone else’s life.

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