Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2020-21

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

The total number of people proceeded against in Scottish courts fell by 46% to 46,497 in the year to 2020-21, according to National Statistics published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician today. The number of people convicted fell at a similar rate, down 44% to 42,532.

These figures cover the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of this on the justice system. Whilst it is not yet possible to isolate the impact of the pandemic on the data, it is reasonable to conclude that the latest data is predominantly a reflection of the impact of the pandemic across the justice system, and should not be interpreted as indicative of longer-term trends.

Whilst all types of court experienced some reduction in capacity over the course of the pandemic, not all court types were affected equally. This is likely to have had a significant impact on the mix of cases able to proceed in court and associated sentencing outcomes, presented in the figures in the 2020-21 bulletin.

Decreases were seen across almost all categories of crimes and offences as well as across all disposal types. Convictions fell the most for Motor Vehicle Offences (down 58%) and Crimes of Dishonesty (down 44%).

The most notable exception was an 81% increase in convictions for crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, from 212 convictions in 2019-20 to 383 in 2020-21. The course of conduct offence was only introduced in April 2019 and so to some extent an increase would be expected after the first year as it takes time for evidence to build up and cases to progress through court.

The number of convictions of crimes with a statutory domestic abuse aggravation decreased by 20% in 2020-21, down to 6,513 convictions from 8,176 in 2019-20.

The 2020-21 statistics include offences introduced by Coronavirus legislation for the first time. A total of 39 people were proceeded against in court for offences relating to coronavirus restrictions in 2020-21, with 36 of these resulting in a conviction. 

The total number of convictions fell by 44%, however, those resulting in a custodial sentence decreased by 35% (from 11,122 in 2019-20 to 7,224 in 2020-21). Custodial sentences represented 17% of sentences imposed for all convictions in 2020-21.

The average length of custodial sentence for all crimes, excluding life sentences in 2020-21 was 329 days, which is 8% shorter than in 2019-20 (356 days).

In 2020-21, 23% (9,741) of people convicted were given a community sentence. This is a 42% decrease in the number from 16,661 in 2019-20.

There are a number of measures available to the police and COPFS for dealing with minor offences directly. These non-court disposals fell to a lesser extent than court disposals over the past year.

Police disposals fell by 12% over the year to 30,555 in 2020-21. Recorded Police Warnings made up 69% (21,003) of all police disposals this year and most were issued for drugs offences, breach of the peace, and common assault.

The number of COPFS disposals decreased by 7% between 2019-20 and 2020-21. This was driven by a 28% decrease in the number of Fiscal Fines and a 45% decrease in Fiscal Combined Fines and Compensation, but partly counteracted by a 36% increase in the number of Fiscal Fixed Penalties and 23% increase in Fiscal Warnings.

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.

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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