Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2015-16

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

The total number of people proceeded against in Scottish courts fell by five per cent to 116,800 in the year to 2015-16, according to National Statistics published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician today. This compares to a slightly larger fall in the number of people convicted, down six per cent to 99,950.

This continues the general downward trend of the last ten years and contrasts the short term rise in court activity between 2012-13 and 2014-15. The decline in 2015-16 has been driven by a fall in motor vehicle offence convictions, down 16 per cent to 32,569, which can be attributed, in part, to changes in Police Scotland guidelines around tackling motor vehicle offences. There were drops for each motor vehicle offence groups except dangerous and careless driving, which rose by 5 per cent from 3,414 convictions in 2014-15 to 3,572 in 2015-16

Other statistics in the report show that the number of people convicted for sexual crimes remained broadly static in 2015-16 at 1,156 convictions (1,152 in 2014-15). This is a slowdown in the longer term rise in sexual crime convictions with levels 53 per cent higher than in 2010-11 (756 convictions).  The increase since 2010-11, in part, reflects an increased level of reporting in the wake of high profile cases and a corresponding rise in the number of people being proceeded against in court, up 72 per cent since 2010-11 from 933 proceedings to 1,606 in 2015-16.

Within the sexual crimes total, convictions for rape and attempted rape decreased by 16 per cent (from 124 convictions in 2014-15 to 104 in 2015-16). This is within the context of a drop in the number of proceedings for these crimes, down 20 per cent to 216 proceedings in 2015-16.

Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence rose by one per cent in 2015-16 to 1,765 people with the largest rises being for homicide (5 per cent rise) and attempted murder and serious assault (6 per cent) up to and 84 and 1,112 people respectively.

Custodial sentences fell by two per cent in the year to 2015-16 (from 14,035 in 2014-15 to 13,735). This is the lowest level since 2006-07, although sentence lengths have been on the rise.  In 2015-16 the average custodial sentence length, excluding life sentences, was around nine and a half months.  This is 1 per cent longer than in 2014-15 but 26 per cent longer than in 2006-07 (seven and a half months).

Other statistics in the report show that community sentences continue to rise, up two per cent in 2015-16 to 18,943 (18,616 in 2014-15). Community sentences are available in any case where the offence is punishable by imprisonment and now account for a higher proportion of court sentences, 19 per cent of the total in 2015-16 and seven percentage points higher than in 2006-07 (12 per cent).     

Over the last ten years the age of people who tend to be convicted in the courts has risen. In 2006-07, 18-20 year olds had the highest conviction rate at 100 convictions per 1,000 population whereas in 2015-16 the highest rate was for those aged between 21-30 years old, standing at 45 convictions per 1,000 population. 

The publication also includes the first statistics on Recorded Police Warnings introduced in January 2016 by Police Scotland to deal with low level offences and replace Formal Adult Warnings. The publication shows that there were 4,074 RPWs issued during January to March 2016.  Prior to the introduction of RPWs, FAWs were given to 3,355 people in 2015-16.

The figures released today were produced by independent statistical staff free from any political interference, in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


The full statistical publication is available at Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2015-16

This publication presents statistics on court proceedings, sentencing and non-court disposals issued by Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.  It also contains statistics on bail orders and undertakings.

National Statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff – more information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland can be accessed at:

Back to top