2. Main findings: Repeat non-court disposals
Changes were introduced as a result of the Criminal Proceedings Act 2007 and these were collectively known as the Summary Justice Reform. They were designed to take less serious cases out of the justice system at an earlier stage before going to court, to improve the efficiency of court processes. These non-court prosecution options are used to deal with less serious offences, and include both police and COPFS disposals.
This section provides statistics on the repeat numbers of non-court disposals for individuals within a year after they were given an initial non-court disposal. Two measures are presented, the repeat non-court disposal rate, which is the percentage of individuals who are given a further non-court disposal within a year of receiving a police or COPFS disposal, and the average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual. These measures are analogous to the reconviction rate and average number of reconvictions per offender. This section does not include convictions and reconvictions dealt with in court, as the non-court dataset is independent of the court convictions dataset.
2.1 Police disposals
The following non-court disposals are available to the police when dealing with a case directly:
- Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notices (ASBFPNs) as provided for in the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 for a range of offences including drunken-related behaviours and playing loud music;
- Formal Adult Warnings are for minor offences where a warning letter is issued to the individual and were in force until 11th January 2016, when they were replaced and extended by Recorded Police Warnings which cover a wider range of offences.
- Actions which are used specifically for juveniles (aged 8 to 17) such as Restorative Justice Warnings and Early and Effective Interventions (EEI).
There are further options available to the police that we are not able to provide data on, such as conditional offers of a fixed penalty notice for motor vehicle offences. More information is available in Annex D of the Criminal Proceedings publication.
The repeat non-court disposal rate for police disposals in 2017-18 was 17.8% (Table 19).
The highest repeat non-court disposal rates were for Formal Adult Warnings and Restorative Justice Warnings which are given to a relatively small number of individuals.
Of all the individuals given a non-court disposal (by the police or COPFS) in 2016-17, those given a Formal Adult Warning and Restorative Justice Warnings had the highest repeat non-court disposal rates of 26.1% and 24.9%, respectively. Both of these are increases on the previous years. However, they are now only given to a small number of individuals. Formal Adult Warnings were replaced by Recorded Police Warnings (for offences prior to 11th January 2016), so they are not directly comparable with previous years (Table 15).
Repeat non-court disposals for Early and Effective Interventions decreased over the past year.
The repeat non-court disposal rate for Early and Effective Interventions (EEI) decreased over the past year by 2.5 percentage points from 24.7% to 22.2%. This is the lowest it has been in the past five years, but it was lower in the first half of the decade. The average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual decreased by 15% in the past year from 0.46 to 0.39. However, the average number of repeat non-court disposals is still higher than it was in the first half of the last decade (Table 15).
Repeat non-court disposals for Recorded Police Warnings showed a slight increase over the past year.
The repeat non-court disposal rate for Recorded Police Warnings was 15.8% in 2017-18, and the average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual was 0.21. These figures were slightly higher than the figures of 15.3% and 0.20 in 2016-17 (Table 15).
Repeat non-court disposals for ASBFPNs decreased over the past year.
The repeat non-court disposal rate for ASBFPNs decreased by 1.8 percentage points from 20.4% in 2016-17 to 18.6% in 2017-18. The average number of repeat non-court disposals decreased by 13% over the past year from 0.32 to 0.28 (Table 15). This continues a trend of decrease over the past five years, and they are now much lower than they were five or more years ago. It should also be noted that the cohort size is much lower than it was historically, with the cohort size of 9,512 now a fifth of the size it was at its highest level of 48,241 in 2009-10. The decrease in cohort size may be due to Police Scotland issuing revised guidance around the use of ASBFPNs, and there may be some displacement by the use of Recorded Police Warnings in the past year.
2.2 Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) disposals
These non-court disposals were available to COPFS over the period covered by this bulletin:
- Fiscal fines of between £50 and £300;
- Compensation orders of up to £5,000;
- Fixed penalties of between £50 and £300, generally issued for motor vehicle offences.
- Fiscal warnings
There are further actions that COPFS can take that are not included in this report, such as diverting cases to social work and other agencies and referrals to the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA). More information is available in Annex D of the Criminal Proceedings publication.
Over the past year, all of the COPFS disposals saw either a decrease or remained the same for both measures of repeat non-court disposals.
The repeat non-court disposal rate for COPFS disposals was 14.4% in 2017-18 (Table 19). Between 2008-09 and 2017-18, all COPFS disposals have seen a decrease in the repeat non-court disposal rate and the average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual (Table 16).
Of those individuals given a COPFS disposal in 2017-18, those given a Fiscal Fine had the highest repeat non-court disposal rate (18.5%). They also had the highest average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual (0.24). These figures were unchanged since last year (Table 16)
Individuals given a Fiscal Fixed Penalty had the lowest repeat non-court disposal rate (5.4%) and the lowest average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual (0.06). Both of these measures were identical to last year (Table 16).
For Fiscal Combined Fines With Compensation, the repeat non-court disposal rate decreased by 1.7 percentage points from 17.1% to 15.4%, and the average number of repeat non-court disposals decreased slightly from 0.20 to 0.19. For Fiscal Compensation Orders, the repeat non-court disposal rate of 11.9% in 2017-18 was 3 percentage points lower than the figure of 14.9% in 2016-17, and the average number of repeat non-court disposals decreased by 22% from 0.18 to 0.14 (Table 16).
Fiscal Warnings have been included from where we have data of sufficient quality from 2011-12 to the latest year of 2017-18. Both measures of repeat non-court disposals decreased over the past year. The repeat non-court disposal rate was 12.1% in 2017-18, which was 1.4 percentage points lower than the figure of 13.5% in 2016-17. The average number of repeat non-court disposals 0.15 in 2017-18, which was 17% lower than 0.18 in the previous year. These decreases come after being relatively static over the previous four years (Table 16).
Fiscal Work Orders (FWOs) were introduced across Scotland in April 2015. The process of recording these disposals is being investigated for the Criminal Proceedings publication. Repeat non-court disposal statistics for FWOs will not be available until this investigation has concluded.
2.3 Characteristics of individuals given non-court disposals
Table 17 shows the repeat non-court disposal rate and average number of repeat non-court disposals from 2008-09 to 2017-18 by gender and Table 18 shows them by age. In Tables 17 and 18, all the types of non-court disposal are combined together. Table 19 shows the percentage of individuals given a repeat non-court disposal in 2017-18 for each type of non-court disposal, by age and gender.
16.6% of males who received a non-court disposal in 2017-18 were given another non-court disposal within a year, compared to 14.3% of females (Table 17). Note that this gap is narrower than reconviction rates (Table 2). The figure has been decreasing for males in each of the past five years, whereas they were relatively stable prior to that. The average number of repeat non-court disposals for males has almost halved in the past decade, decreasing by 43% from 0.40 in 2008-09 to 0.23 in 2017-18. Like repeat rates, much of this decrease has been in the past five years. Repeat non-court disposals for females over the past five years have been relatively stable, ranging within 0.5 percentage points of each other, although the extent of that range is due to the increase from 13.8% last year to 14.3% this year. The average number of repeat non-court disposals for females has decreased over the past decade by 22% from 0.23 to 0.18.
As with reconvictions, under 21s had the highest repeat non-court disposal rate in 2017-18 of 20.6% and over 40s had the lowest with a figure of 12.8% (Table 18). The repeat non-court disposal rate was similar for the over 21 to 40 age groups, ranging from 15.1% to 16.4%. Repeat non-court disposals decreased across most age groups between 2016-17 and 2017-18, with the exception of the 31 to 40 age group which had a slight increase in the repeat non-court disposal rate, and 26 to 30 age group which had the same average number of repeat non-court disposals as last year. Both measures of repeat non-court disposals are lower than they were a decade ago, with a notable 42% decrease in the average number of repeat non-court disposals for the under 21 age group.