Scottish Courts & Tribunal Service (SCTS)
As a result of the increasing spread of the new variant of COVID-19 across Scotland, the Lord President has announced that during the lockdown period the criminal courts will focus on the most serious trials and the majority of summary trials in the Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court will be adjourned. This will reduce the overall number of criminal trials taking place during lockdown by up to 75% and be implemented from January 12th.
Criminal Registered & Scheduled Trials
Since lockdown, there have been 69,100 criminal registrations in the courts. 346 of these registrations have been COVID-19 related (0.5%).
In February 2021, all types of court registration were lower than 2019-20 averages:
- Indictments registered in the High Court were 25% lower than the 19-20 average.
- Indictments registered in the Sheriff court (solemn cases) were 17% lower than the 19-20 average.
- Complaints (summary cases) registered in the Sheriff Court were 33% lower than the 19-20 average.
- Complaints registered in the JP court were 52% lower than the 19-20 average.
|Cases Registered||19-20 monthly average||February 2021||Change from 19-20 monthly average||Outstanding (scheduled) trials|
|March 2020||Feb 2021|
|High Court||85||64||-21 (-25%)||390||247|
|Sheriff Court||454||378||-76 (-17%)||497||1,211|
|Sheriff Court||5,478||3,678||-1,800 (-33%)||13,971||29,324|
|JP Court||2,799||1,345||-1,454 (-52%)||3,497||5,255|
At the end of February 2021 there were 36,037 trials outstanding. This compares to 18,355 at the end of 2019-20. In addition, SCTS have forecast that there are another 8,802 cases in the system which are likely to come to trial but have not yet had a trial date set (see SCTS published monthly criminal statistics for a more detail - https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/official-statistics).
In February 2021 there were 3,209 disposals (excluding secondary disposals and the ‘other’ disposal category) from Scotland’s courts. This is 44% of the 19-20 monthly average of 7,278 and 20% lower than January 2021, reflecting the impact of the adjournment of summary court business on 12th January.
Between April 2020 and February 2021 there were 36,735 (45%) fewer disposals compared to the same time the previous year.
If courts had not been subject to lockdown and crime levels had remained the same we could have expected the number of April 2020 to February 2021 court disposals to be similar to April 2019 to February 2020 levels.
From April to February of 2021, there have been 39% fewer custodial sentences and 50% fewer community disposals imposed by the courts than might have been expected under normal circumstances.
|To: 28 February 2021||Monthly average 2019-20||Feb 2021||Change %||Apr-Feb 2019-20||Apr-Feb 2020-21||Change %|
|Community Disposal (CPO & DTTO)||1,384||733||-47%||15,513||7,736||-50%|
|Restriction of Liberty Order||296||293||-1%||3,299||2,444||-26%|
Overall, the number of crimes recorded by the police between April 2020 and February 2021 was 7% lower than the same period in 2019-20. It will take time for these cases to move through the courts system and it is unlikely that many of these cases are included in the disposal figures above. Any changes in crime levels may have associated impacts on volumes of court business and disposals.
Latest SCTS published official statistics can be found here: https://scotcourts.gov.uk/official-statistics
Sheriff Court Civil Case Volumes
Case initiations and disposals
Initiations and Disposals (of all types) in the Sheriff Civil Courts remain low, but are recovering to 2019-20 typical levels (dotted lines) as the courts continue to emerge from lockdown. There was a rise in initiations in February, marking a recovery from the festive period lower numbers. There was a drop in disposals in February.
Sheriff Court initiated and disposed cases by procedure
Initiated case numbers for ordinary cause and simple procedure are returning to 2019-20 monthly average levels. There have been a rise in numbers in February, reversing the decrease seen during the festive period. Summary cause is much lower than 2019-20 levels, while small claims have largely been replaced by simple procedure.
Likewise, disposed cases for ordinary cause and simple procedure are returning to 2019-20 levels. In line with the drop in total disposals in February, ordinary cause and simple procedure cases decreased in parallel. Summary cause are much lower than average, but have also decreased in February in line with overall disposals.
In addition to lower volumes across all procedures, summary cause figures were heavily influenced by the emergency legislation which protects tenants during the pandemic, brought into force in April 2020 as part of Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. The provisions of the Act, although temporary in nature, have now been extended until 31 March 2021.
|Procedures||Oct-20||Nov-20||Dec-20||Jan-21||Feb-21||2019/20 monthly average|
1. Figures exclude summary applications.
2. Figures for initiations and disposals do not necessarily refer to the same cases.
3. Excludes Sheriff Personal Injury Court.
In February 2021, all initiated and disposed cases were below 2019-20 levels.
- Initiated case types presented are gradually returning to 2019-20 levels, with month to month variation. They are still lower than pre-festive season months in 2020, but have recovered in February.
- In line with overall cases, disposals in February for all case types presented were below 2019-20 average levels.
|Initiated Cases (Feb 21)||Disposed Cases (Feb 21)|
|February 2021||Change from 19-20||Case Type||February 2021||Change from 19-20|
|875||83% of 19-20 average month (1,055 cases)||Family||622||68% of 19-20 average month (910 cases)|
|358||60% of 19-20 average month (602 cases)||Children’s Referrals||132||51% of 19-20 average month (260 cases)|
|2,471||86% of 19-20 average month (2,883 cases)||Debt||1,934||82% of 19-20 average month (2,368 cases)|
|315||78% of 19-20 average month (402 cases)||Personal Injury||164||54% of 19-20 average month (306 cases)|
Latest published Civil Justice Statistics can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/civil-justice-statistics-scotland-2018-19/
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