Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2018-19

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

The total number of people proceeded against in Scottish courts fell by 6% to 89,733 in the year to 2018-19, according to National Statistics published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician today. This is the same as the fall in the number of people convicted, down 6% to 78,503.

This continues the general downward trend of the last ten years. Falls in convictions for breach of the peace and common assault continued in 2018-19, down 13% and 12% respectively. There were also notable falls in the number of convictions for crimes against public justice (down 11%), dangerous and careless driving (down 18%), and drugs crimes (down 8%).

Other statistics in the report show that the number of people convicted for sexual crimes increased by 9% in 2018-19 to 1,215 convictions. This is 46% higher than at the start of the last decade (832 convictions in 2009-10). There has been a corresponding rise in the number of people being proceeded against in court for sexual crimes, up 73% since 2009-10 from 1,016 proceedings to 1,762 in 2018-19, 12% higher than in 2017-18.

Within sexual crimes, total convictions for rape and attempted rape increased, by 43% to 152 in 2018-19. The number of proceedings for these crimes increased by 32% to 324 proceedings in 2018-19, and the conviction rate was 47%. The number of proceedings for sexual assault in 2018-19 increased by 9%, and the number of convictions fell by 3% to 292, entailing a six percentage point fall in the conviction rate for these crimes.

Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence decreased by 3% in 2018-19 to 1,781 people. This decrease was driven by a 12% fall in robbery convictions.

The number of convictions with a domestic abuse identifier attached fell by 7% in 2018-19 to 9,210, this is the fourth consecutive year of decline. The statutory domestic abuse aggravator was attached to 7,752 (84%) of these cases.

In contrast to the overall decrease in convictions, the number of custodial sentences given in court grew by 2% in 2018-19 (from 11,980 in 2017-18 to 12,220). This is the second lowest level since 2009-10, but the first rise seen since 2011-12. With this rise, the proportion of sentences that are custodial has reached its highest level this decade, at 16%.

The use of short custodial sentences has fallen over the last decade. The proportion of sentences of three months or less in length fell by one percentage point in 2018-19 to 26%, down from 38% in 2009-10. In 2018-19, the average custodial sentence length, excluding life sentences, was 326 days. This is 3% longer than in 2017-18, and 16% longer than in 2009-10 (281 days).

The use of community sentences fell again this year, down 12% in 2018-19 to 15,206 (from 17,303 in 2017-18). This is in the context of an overall decrease of 6% 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 16% 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 5% and 9% respectively.

Over the last ten years, the average age of people convicted in court has risen. In 2009-10, 18-20 year olds had the highest conviction rate at 71 convictions per 1,000 population, whereas in 2018-19 the highest rate was for those aged between 31-40 years old (34 convictions per 1,000 population). The rate for the 21-30 age group is very similar at 33 per 1,000.

There are a number of measures available to the police for dealing with minor offences directly. Recorded Police Warnings accounted for 61% of these in 2018-19, with 22,070 issued. This is up 27% compared to 2017-18. In 2018-19, the majority (68%) of the 22,070 RPWs were issued for drugs offences, breach of the peace, and shoplifting. The number of antisocial behaviour fixed penalty notices fell by 19% in 2018-19 to 8,890.

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 here.

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