Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2017-18

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

The total number of people proceeded against in Scottish courts fell by 11% to 95,254 in the year to 2017-18, according to National Statistics published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician today. This is similar to the fall in the number of people convicted, down 10% to 82,716.

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 convictions in 2017-18 was driven by falls in breach of the peace (down 11%), common assault (down 13%), speeding, (down 12%), drugs (down 15%); and crimes against public justice (down 11%).

Other statistics in the report show that the number of people convicted for sexual crimes remained almost unchanged in 2017-18 at 1,053 convictions, having been at 1,040 in 2016-17. This is 39% higher than at the low-point of the last decade in 2010-11 (756 convictions), although lower than the peak of around 1,160 seen in 2014-15 and 2015-16. There has been a corresponding rise in the number of people being proceeded against in court for sexual crimes, up 61% since 2010-11 from 933 proceedings to 1,502 in 2017-18, almost the same as in 2016-17.

Within sexual crimes, total convictions for rape and attempted rape continues to fluctuate, rising slightly to 107 in 2017-18. The number of proceedings for these crimes dipped slightly to 247 proceedings in 2017-18, and the conviction rate was 43%.

Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence increased by five per cent in 2017-18 to 1,812 people. This increase was driven by a 5% increase in ‘attempted murder and serious assault convictions’, and 17% and 9% increases in convictions for homicide and robbery respectively.

The number of convictions with a domestic abuse identifier attached fell by 10% in 2017-18 to 9,782, this is the third consecutive year of decline. A new statutory domestic abuse aggravator was used for the first time in 2017-18, and was attached to 4,253 (43%) of these cases.

The number of custodial sentences given in court fell by six per cent in 2017-18 (from 12,705 in 2016-17 to 11,973). This is the lowest level since 2008-09.

The use of short custodial sentences has fallen over the last decade. The proportion of sentences under three months in length fell by one percentage point in 2017-18 to 27%, down from 41% in 2008-09, although most of this change occurred before 2011-12; the proportion has remained broadly unchanged since. In 2017-18 the average custodial sentence length, excluding life sentences, was over 10 and a half months. This is marginally longer than in 2016-17, and 21% longer than in 2008-09 (eight and a half months).

The use of community sentences fell this year, down 10% in 2017-18 to 16,830 (from 18,646 in 2016-17). This is in the context of an overall decrease of 10% in the total number of convictions but is in contrast to the general increasing trend in the use of community sentences since 2010-11. The decrease was driven by a 15% fall in the number of Community Payback Orders given, although there were increases in the use of other types of community sentence, with the number of Restriction of Liberty Orders and Drug Treatment and Testing orders given increasing by 22% and 24% respectively. Community sentences are available in any case where the offence is punishable by imprisonment and now account for a higher proportion of court sentences, 20% of the total in 2017-18 and six percentage points higher than in 2008-09 (14%).Fines and other types of sentence declined by 13% and nine per cent respectively.

Over the last ten years, the average age of people convicted in court has risen. In 2008-09, 18-20 year olds had the highest conviction rate at 81 convictions per 1,000 population, whereas in 2017-18 the highest rate was for those aged between 21-30 years old (35 convictions per 1,000 population). The rate for the 31-40 age group is very similar.

There are a number of measures available to the police for dealing with minor offences directly. Recorded Police Warnings accounted for 50% of these in 2016-17, with 17,291 issued during 2017-18. This is down 12% compared to 2016-17. The number of antisocial behaviour fixed penalty notices fell by 28% in 2017-18 to 11,008.

The figures released today were produced 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

 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:


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