Coronavirus (COVID-19): Justice Analytical Services data report - January 2021

Eighth release of a monthly data report on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the justice system in Scotland, including information from Police Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, and Scottish Prison Service.

This document is part of a collection

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

Reports received by COPFS

After a crime is classified and a suspect charged, police send a report to the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

Total reports received by COPFS now exceed last year’s average levels.

  • The total number of reports received by COPFS decreased substantially at the beginning of lockdown. Since that time numbers have been gradually increasing and now sit around 19-20 average levels.
  • Undertaking report numbers remain higher than 2019-20 levels.
  • Custody report numbers had returned to 2019-20 levels but decreased from August and are now less than half of 19-20 average levels.
Reports received
Line graph showing the total number of reports received by COPFS.

First substantive marking

When COPFS receive a report that someone has committed a crime the prosecutor must decide whether and what action to take. This is recorded on the case as a “marking”. If a decision cannot be taken immediately, an interim marking may be recorded. When a substantive decision is reached a First Substantive Marking (FSM) is recorded, to indicate how the prosecutor has decided to proceed.

The number of accused given a FSM by COPFS increased substantially in the early part of January 2021. At the same time there was a reduction in the number of reports awaiting marking and an increase in the number of interim marked reports.

Number of reports
Bar graph showing a breakdown of COPFS markings.

Summary of COPFS First Substantive Markings

There are 3 types of marking decision available to COPFS:

  • No Action
  • Direct Measures
  • Court proceedings

Related to the previous graph showing an increase in reports receiving a FSM in January, the graph below shows increases to above 19-20 levels in all 3 types of marking decision.

Number of cases

Subjects not marked for court

Alternatives to court include diversion, fiscal fines, fixed penalties, community and work orders. Fiscal fine limits were increased as part of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020.

In January 2021, for the first time in 2020-21, the numbers of subjects receiving a Fiscal Fine increased to above 19-20 average levels (dotted lines).

The number of subjects given Fiscal fixed penalties increased from May 2020, and remained above 19-20 average levels throughout the end of 2020. Numbers increased to almost double 19-20 average levels in January 2021.

Subjects marked
Bar graph showing the number of subjects marked for non-court disposals by COPFS.

Subjects marked for court

The type of court proceedings appropriate for a case depends on the nature of the crimes or offences involved. The most serious crimes are marked for solemn proceedings, whilst less serious crimes and offences will be marked for Sheriff Summary or JP courts.

The number of people marked for proceedings in:

  • Solemn court (High Court or Sheriff & Jury) has been at or above 19-20 average levels since April 2020.
  • Sheriff Summary court fell below 19-20 average levels in August and continued to decrease until levels returned to the 19-20 average in January 2021.
  • JP Court remained significantly below the 19-20 average until a substantial increase in January 2021.
Subjects marked
Bar graph showing the number of subjects marked for different court proceedings by month.

Fatal Accident Enquiries (as of 31 January 2021)

  • FAIs with scheduled court dates 41
  • FAIs with First Notice lodged, awaiting court dates: 2

Source: Data in this section has come from COPFS Internal Management Information System.



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