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Criminal Proceedings in Scottish Courts, 2005/06


Notes on Statistics Used in this Bulletin

Data sources

Court proceedings

1. Statistical information on court proceedings in respect of all crimes and some offences is been derived from data held on the police operational computer at the Scottish Criminal Record Office ( SCRO). Details of prosecutions not recorded at SCRO - mostly for motor vehicle offences and minor statutory and common law offences - were previously provided to the Scottish Executive Justice Department ( SEJD) by the police on regular statistical returns. However, data on court proceedings in respect of all crimes and offences is now sourced from SCRO.

Recorded crime

2. The statistical return from which the figures on recorded motor vehicle offences in this bulletin are taken is a simple count of the numbers of crimes and offences recorded by the police. The 8 Scottish forces are included; other police forces, such as the British Transport Police, are not. One return is made for each council area in Scotland and these are aggregated to give the national total. The return is submitted quarterly to SEJD and gives the information as known at the end of each quarter. Thus amendments (such as the deletion of incidents found on investigation not to be criminal) which arise after the end of the year are not incorporated.


3. The source of the statistical data on bail orders available to the Scottish Executive Justice Department is the Scottish Criminal Record Office ( SCRO). Each day a statistical extract is created at SCRO which picks up records for any bail orders granted three days before which are still associated with live pending cases on the SCRO database. For example, the extract run at the start of a Thursday will pick up any bail orders granted on the Monday of that week which a) have been recorded on SCRO by the start of Thursday, and b) which are associated with pending cases still live at the start of Thursday. The information covered in the data extracts includes the date of the bail order, the court which made it, the charge(s) involved, the police case reference number and the SCRO reference number of the accused.

4. 2005/06 is the first year where it has been considered that the use and recording of ISCJIS Bail Aggravator codes from the Court Proceedings Database has been of sufficient quality and coverage to be published.


5. Information on procurator fiscal conditional offers made for motor vehicle offences is derived from summary data collected by the Crown Office from procurators fiscal.

6. Information on police conditional offers made for motor vehicle offences are based on figures provided by police force traffic departments. Estimates have been for missing data.

7. Separate statistical returns to SEJD are made annually by each police force for the number of "stationary" offences dealt with by the issue of a fixed penalty notice by the police or traffic wardens. Estimates have been made for missing data.

8. Information on penalty charge notices in Aberdeen City, City of Edinburgh, Glasgow City, Perth & Kinross, Dundee City and South Lanarkshire has been provided by the local authorities in these areas.

9. The population figures used as denominators in Table 5 and Chart 5 are the relevant mid-year estimates prepared by the General Register Office for Scotland ( GROS).

Limitations of the court proceedings data

10. The SCRO database which holds information on the outcome of court proceedings is not designed for statistical purposes. It is constantly updated with information from the courts and police force records offices, while some types of outcome, e.g. acquittals, are weeded after a prescribed length of time. Occasionally there will be a pending case on SCRO which is not updated until some time after the case has been disposed of. Recording delays of this sort affect High Court disposals relatively more than those for other types of court. The figures given in this bulletin reflect the details of court proceedings as recorded on SCRO, and as known to SEJD at 7 March 2007.

11. Some inconsistencies in the data received from SCRO cannot currently be corrected. The main examples are persons whose gender has not been recorded or whose age is unknown. Some persons aged under 16 have been recorded as receiving community service orders. This is due to the age returned from SCRO being based on the original date of birth that SCRO recorded for an accused. This date of birth may well differ from the date of birth recorded by the court.

12. During parts of 2000, a few police forces are known to have experienced backlogs in recording the outcome of some court proceedings for motor vehicle offences on the SCRO database. As at the time information on disposals of such offences was generally only retained on the SCRO database for a couple of months from the date of disposal before being weeded off, these cases were not included in the extracts of statistical data provided by SCRO to SEJD. The figures given for 1999/00 and 2000/01 in this bulletin therefore include some estimated information to take this shortfall (estimated to be 3,300 proceedings in total) into account. Estimates have also been included in the figures given for 2001/02, 2002/03 and 2003/04 to allow for similar shortfalls in those years.

13. The police record very detailed information on statutory offences but this does not always correspond exactly to the categories in the SEJD classification of crimes and offences. The most important example in numerical terms is an offence under Section 41(1)(a) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967. This offence relates to "any person who assaults, resists, obstructs, molests or hinders a constable..". The SEJD classification divides this into 3 categories - resisting arrest, serious assault and common assault, but this distinction is not made by the courts. The majority of such cases are thought to have been classed as common assault, and all the offences under this subsection have been so classified. The same problem arises in relation to a number of other statutes, but at the level of aggregation used in the bulletin the numbers involved in cases where there is a change in the final crime category are thought to be small.

14. Following the introduction of computerisation of case recording to the sheriff courts, some difficulties were experienced by police force records offices in distinguishing sheriff solemn from sheriff summary cases when recording the disposal information on the SCRO database. Where possible those cases where the court type was incorrect have been identified and appropriate changes made to the data held in the SEJD court proceedings database. It remains possible however that some cases have been allocated incorrectly by court type in Table 3.

Counting rules

15. Individual offenders may be proceeded against on more than one occasion; on each occasion they may be proceeded against for more than one charge. The units of analysis used in this bulletin are:

(a) the person or company proceeded against or convicted. (sections 4 to 7)

Persons are counted once for each occasion on which they are proceeded against. If more than one proceeding is disposed of on the same day each occasion will be counted separately. The statistics are therefore not directly comparable with statistics on direct sentenced receptions to penal establishments (see note 16) or with social work authorities' statistics on probation and community service orders. Companies, which also include other bodies corporate, Scottish partnerships and unincorporated associations, constitute less than 1 per cent of the total and references to "persons" include companies, unless otherwise stated.

Where a person is proceeded against for more than one crime or offence, only the main charge is counted. The main charge is the one receiving the severest penalty if one or more charges are proved. If more than one charge receives the same (or a combined) penalty, then the main charge is the one judged by the police (who provide the information) to be the most serious. If no charge is proved then the one reaching the furthest stage in proceedings is the main one. A person with a charge proved is defined to be one who had a plea of "guilty" accepted, or who was proved guilty of at least one charge as a result of a trial.

(b) individual offenders (section 8)

In the period covered by this bulletin, each offender convicted of a crime, common assault, breach of the peace, racially aggravated conduct or harassment, firearms offences or social security offences will have been recorded on SCRO under a unique reference number. This enables all such convictions to be linked together, so that analysis of the number of convictions per offender in any given year, or the number of their previous convictions can be derived. All offences are now recordable on SCRO.

(c ) individual offences (Tables 4a, 18 and 19, and section 9)

In addition to analysing persons convicted by the main charge involved, data in relation to individual offences which are proved are also available. Figures for all individual offences are given in Table 4a and Table 18, and more detailed information on motor vehicle offences is given in section 10.

16. Generally only the initial outcome is included in the court proceedings statistics, so that, for example, a person fined is regarded as fined even if he or she subsequently goes to prison in default of payment. (The exception to this recording policy is that proceedings for breaches of social work orders - community service, probation, etc. - are included in Crime Group 6 - miscellaneous offences.) Similarly, no account is taken of the outcome of appeals; the exception to this is for those crimes where an appeal is determined prior to publication and the conviction is quashed. Interim decisions such as deferral of sentence are also excluded.

17. In the court proceedings statistics, the reference year used is the year in which the person's case is disposed of. So if person pleads to and is convicted for a charge in 2003/04 but is not sentenced until 2004/05 all events are recorded as occurring in 2004/05. The age of each person is calculated as the date of sentence or acquittal. It is also possible that the offence recorded by the police may be altered as a result of the judicial proceedings, while many offences are dealt with by means other than prosecution, for example through the use of procurator or police conditional offers of fixed penalty. Children aged under 16 are generally referred to the children's hearings system rather than the courts for their alleged offending. Statistics of court proceedings are therefore not directly comparable with the recorded crime statistics.

18. Figures for custodial sentences in this bulletin will not agree with those published in the statistical bulletin "Prisons Statistics Scotland" because they count sentences of courts while those in the prisons statistical bulletin count receptions to penal establishments. Direct sentenced receptions to penal establishments (i.e. excluding fine defaulters) are counted differently from custodial disposals in the court proceedings statistics for 2 main reasons. Firstly, in the case of backdated sentences if, after backdating, it is found that the custodial sentence has expired, neither the warrant nor the person sentenced will be taken to prison and thus a reception will not be counted though the sentence will be included in the court statistics. Secondly, if a person is given one or more custodial sentences on each of 2 separate sets of charges from the same court on the same day, this will be counted as 2 custodial sentences in the court statistics but only one direct sentenced reception.

19. Figures for sentence lengths imposed include any element imposed for bail aggravation under Section 27(1)(b) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, and under Section 16 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993 (where the offender committed an offence following release from custody and prior to the end of the previous sentence period imposed).

Other background notes

20. Most motor vehicle offences are discovered and recorded as a result of police activity rather than by being reported to the police by the public. Hence the numbers of such offences recorded are mainly determined by the strength and deployment of the police forces.

Penalties available to the courts

21. The measures available to a court in sentencing a person with a charge proved depend on whether the accused is an adult (21 or over), a young offender (aged 16 but less than 21) or a child (under 16 or under 18 with a current supervisory requirement from a children's hearing) and on whether the court is satisfied on the evidence of 2 medical practitioners that he is suffering from mental disorder. The measures available in 2005/06 included:

Custodial sentences

a. Imprison the offender (adults only) or, if the offender has been released from prison on licence following a previous conviction, recall him to prison.

b. Sentence a young offender to a young offenders institution ( YOI) for a period not greater than that of imprisonment which the court could have imposed on an adult.

c. Recall to YOI an offender who is under supervision following detention in a YOI for a previous offence.

d. Sentence a young offender under 18 years of age convicted of murder to detention for an indeterminate period. (The effect of these sentences is normally detention or further detention in a young offenders institution.)

e. Sentence a child to a specified period of detention in a place and on such conditions as Scottish Ministers may direct.

(The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced provisions to allow courts to impose additional post-release supervision on licence where they consider that any existing supervision after the offender's release from custody would not be enough to protect the public from serious harm from the offender. These "extended sentences" can be imposed in indictment cases on sex offenders or on violent offenders who would have received a determinate sentence of four years or more.)

Community sentences

f. Impose a probation order with or without various conditions including a requirement to do unpaid work.

g. Impose a community service order on an adult or young offender requiring him to undertake unpaid work.

h. Impose a supervised attendance order as a disposal of first instance for those aged 16 and above and currently being piloted in a small number of courts.

i. Impose a restriction of liberty order: a community sentence introduced by section 5 of the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Act 1997 and available to courts nationally from 1 May 2002.

j. Impose a drug treatment and testing order: a measure introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and with the exception of a small number of courts in Argyll and Bute now available to all sheriff courts and the High Court in 2005/06.

k. Impose a community reparation order (being piloted since April 2005 in Dundee, Inverness and Inverclyde)

l. Impose an (criminal) antisocial behaviour order

Financial penalties

m. Fine the offender.

n. Impose a compensation order requiring the offender to compensate the victim of his crime for any resulting injury, loss or damage.

Other sentences

o. Order an absolute discharge (with no conviction recorded in summary procedure*) or, following a deferral of sentence, make no order.

p. Admonish the offender or make an order to find caution.

q. Remit the disposal of a child to a children's hearing.

r. Make a guardianship order if the accused is suffering from mental disorder (with no conviction recorded in summary procedure*).

s. Make a hospital order if the accused is suffering from mental disorder (with no conviction recorded in summary procedure) or order the accused to be detained in hospital if he is found to be insane and unfit for trial or insane at the time of the offence.

t. Make a compulsion order

22. The court can impose more than one penalty in appropriate cases. For example, a fine (738 cases in 2005/06) or an order to find caution (7 cases in 2005/06) can be imposed in addition to a more severe penalty. Equipment used in the commission of a crime or offence may also be forfeited. However, the main additional punishments are generally disqualification from holding or obtaining a driving licence and the endorsement of a driving licence. The main charge in such cases is almost always either a motor vehicle offence or the theft of a motor vehicle. Disqualification from driving necessarily involves endorsement of a driving licence. However, for simplicity of presentation, the figures quoted in the bulletin for endorsement do not include cases where a disqualification also applied.

Revisions to previously published figures

23. Since the last bulletin in this series was published, a number of data quality checks have been made on historic data. In particular, details of High Court cases which were entered too late on to SCRO to be included in the data analysis files covering the period January 1999 to December 2004 have now been added to the SEJD court proceedings database. Further details of these and other amendments can be obtained from the enquiry point given at the end of this bulletin.

24. This bulletin presents only a selection of the statistics available from the SEJD court proceedings database. New analysis of information on offence modifiers (e.g. type of drug involved in drug offences) are under development and will be reported on in future SEJD statistical publications. Further information on this new analysis and on the range of additional analysis available can also be obtained by contacting the enquiry point given at the end of this bulletin.

25. Prior to 2004/05, statistics on police conditional offers, police fixed penalty notices and local authority penalty charge notices for parking infringements are only available on a calendar year basis.


26. The following symbols are used throughout the tables in this bulletin:

- Nil
* Less than 0.5
n/a Not available

27. The percentage figures given in tables and charts have been independently rounded, so they may not always sum to the relevant sub-totals or totals.

Classification of Crimes and Offences

28. Contraventions of the law are divided for statistical purposes into crimes and offences, crimes generally being the more serious. The classification of crimes and offences used by the Scottish Executive Justice Department for criminal statistics contains over 300 codes. These are grouped in this bulletin as follows.



(Also referred to as Violence)


Comprises murder and culpable homicide (including the statutory crimes of causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs).

Serious assault and attempted murder

Referred for short in the text as "serious assault".


Includes offences involving intent to rob.


Includes threats, extortion and cruel and unnatural treatment of children.


(Also referred to as Indecency).

Rape and attempted rape


Indecent assault


Lewd & indecent behaviour

Comprises lewd & indecent practices against children, indecent exposure.


Includes offences connected with prostitution, incest and sexual intercourse with girls aged under 16.


(Also referred to as Dishonesty)


Includes business as well as domestic premises.

Theft by opening a lockfast place


Theft of a motor vehicle




Other theft

Includes theft of pedal cycles.


Includes statutory fraud, except social security benefit fraud.


Includes forgery, reset and embezzlement.





Includes malicious mischief, vandalism and reckless conduct with firearms.


Crimes against public justice

Includes perjury, contempt of court, bail offences and failing to appear at court.

Handling an offensive weapon

Comprises carrying offensive weapons, restriction of offensive weapons legislation. (This crime category was previously included under the non-sexual crimes of violence group.)


Includes importation, possession and supply of controlled drugs.


Includes conspiracy and explosives offences.



Common assault

Also sometimes termed petty assault or minor assault

Breach of the peace




Breach of social work orders

Breach of probation, community service, restriction of liberty and supervised attendance orders.


Includes offences against local legislation, Revenue and Excise Acts, Licensing Acts, Wireless Telegraphy Acts / Communication Acts.


Dangerous and careless driving

Prior to 1992 this was known as "reckless and careless driving".

Drunk driving

Comprises driving or in charge of motor vehicle while unfit through drink or drugs, blood alcohol content above limit and failing to provide breath, blood or urine specimens.


Includes the small number of motorway and clearway offences, as these are mostly speeding-related.

Unlawful use of vehicle

Comprises driving while disqualified, without a licence, insurance, test certificate, vehicle tax and registration and identification offences.

Vehicle defect offences

Comprises construction and use and lighting offences.


Includes parking, record of work offences, neglect of traffic directions, failing to stop after accident and mobile phone offences.



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Correspondence and enquiries

Enquiries on Criminal Proceedings in Scottish Courts should be addressed to:

Howard Hooper
Criminal Justice Statistics
Scottish Executive Justice Department
Area GWR St Andrew's House

Telephone: (0131) 244 2227; Fax: (0131) 244 2109
e-mail: howard.hooper@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

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Most recent Justice Statistical Publications relating to the Crime and Justice theme

Ref no.


Last published



Prison Statistics Scotland, 2005-06

August 2006



Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2005-06

September 2006



Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland, 2005-06

September 2006


Statistics Release

Reconvictions Of Offenders Discharged From Custody Or Given Non-Custodial Sentences In 2002-03, Scotland

November 2006



Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland, 2005-06

November 2006



Drug Seizures by Scottish Police Forces, 2004-05 and 2005-06

January 2007



Criminal Justice Social Work Statistics, 2005-06

January 2007


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