Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2019-20

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

The total number of people proceeded against in Scottish courts fell by 4% to 85,726 in the year to 2019-20, according to National Statistics published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician today. The number of people convicted also fell at the same rate, down 4% to 75,251. This continues the general downward trend of the last 10 years, with the number of convictions down 35% in 2019-20 compared to 2010-11.

Convictions have decreased for most types of crimes and offences between 2018-19 and 2019-20. There were notable falls in the number of convictions for unlawful use of a motor vehicle (down 18% or 1,358 fewer convictions), shoplifting (down 9% or 533 convictions), and drug crimes (down 11% or 575 convictions).

Although convictions for most types of crimes and offences decreased, there was a notable rise of 21% for convictions in crimes in the non-sexual crimes of violence group between 2018-19 and 2019-20, from 1,772 in 2018-19 to 2,142 in 2019-20. This was partly due to a rise in the number of people convicted for attempted murder and serious assault by 11% from 1,166 in 2018-19 to 1,298 in 2019-20; and robbery, which increased by 14% from 361 to 410. However, the number of convictions for homicide remained unchanged over the past year.

The increase in convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence between 2018-19 and 2019-20 was also due, in part, to the introduction of the new crime of domestic abuse under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which came into effect for a course of conduct committed on or after 1st April 2019. There were 206 convictions in 2019-20. This was out of 246 people proceeded against, giving a conviction rate of 84%. Due to the time lag in processing of cases coming to court this is effectively only a partial year’s worth of data. Further data is needed to provide a clear understanding of sentencing for this offence.

There were 8,120 convictions for crimes where the statutory domestic abuse aggravator was proven in 2019-20, which is a 5% increase from 7,751 in 2018-19.

There has been a slight decrease of 2% in the number of convictions for sexual crimes, from 1,224 in 2018-19 to 1,204 in 2019-20. Within the sexual crimes group, total convictions for rape and attempted rape decreased by 8% from 142 in 2018-19 to 130 in 2019-20.

The total number of convictions fell by 4%, however, those resulting in a custodial sentence decreased by 9% (from 12,221 in 2018-19 to 11,101 in 2019-20). Custodial sentences represented 15% of sentences imposed for all convictions in 2019-20, similar to the proportion over the past decade, which has ranged between 13% and 16%.

The average length of custodial sentence for all crimes, excluding life sentences, in 2019-20 was almost a year (356 days), which is 9% longer than in 2018-19 (326 days). The increase in average sentence length is due to fewer shorter sentences being given out, rather than more longer sentences.

In 2019-20, 22% (16,296) of people convicted were given a community sentence. This is a 7% increase in the number from 15,211 in 2018-19, and the highest proportion of convictions where community sentences were imposed in the past 10 years. The increase in community sentences between 2018-19 and 2019-20 was driven by a 6% increase in Community Payback Orders (CPOs) and a 15% increase in the Restriction of Liberty Orders (RLOs).

Over the last 10 years, the average age of people convicted in court has risen. In 2010-11, 18-20 year olds had the highest conviction rate at 62 convictions per 1,000 population, whereas in 2019-20 the highest rate was for those aged between 31-40 years old (32 convictions per 1,000 population). The rate for the 21-30 age group is very similar at 31 per 1,000.

There are a number of measures available to the police for dealing with minor offences directly. Recorded Police Warnings accounted for 65% of these in 2019-20, with 22,353 issued, which is a slight increase of 1% compared to 2018-19. In 2019-20, the majority (65%) of these warnings were issued for drugs offences, breach of the peace, and shoplifting.

The number of COPFS disposals increased by 2% between 2018-19 and 2019-20. This was driven by a 14% increase in the number of Fiscal Fixed Penalties and a 21% increase in Fiscal Combined Fines and Compensation, but there was also a 9% decrease in the number of Fiscal Warnings.

The figures released today were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


Please note this publication covers the period ending in March 2020, so court volumes presented here would have been largely unaffected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and does not cover offences introduced by Coronavirus legislation.

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.

These statistics were delayed due to issues identified during quality assurance of the data and the time needed to resolve them in conjunction with our data suppliers.

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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