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.

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Scottish Courts & Tribunal Service

SCTS update

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 63,635 criminal registrations in the courts. 293 of these registrations have been COVID-19 related (0.4%).

In January 2021, all types of court registration were lower than 2019-20 averages:

  • Indictments registered in the High Court was 24% lower than 19-20 average levels.
  • Indictments registered in the Sheriff court (solemn cases) was 17% lower than the 19-20 average.
  • Complaints (summary cases) registered in the Sheriff Court was 31% lower than the 19-20 average.
  • Complaints registered in the JP court was 48% lower than the 19-20 average.
Cases Registered 19-20 monthly average January 2021 Change from 19-20 monthly average Outstanding (scheduled) trials
Pre- lockdown January 2021
Indictments High Court 85 65 -20 (-24%) 390 215
Sheriff Court 454 379 -75 (-17%) 497 1091
Complaints Sheriff Court 5,478 3,790 -1,688 (-31%) 13,971 28,548
JP Court 2,799 1,469 -1,330 (-48%) 3,497 5,213

At the end of January 2021 there were 35,067 trials outstanding. This compares to 18,355 at the end of 2019-20. In addition, SCTS have forecast that there are another 6,577 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 -

Criminal Disposals

In January 2021 there were 3,843 disposals (excluding secondary disposals and the ‘other’ disposal category) from Scotland’s courts. This is 53% of the 19-20 monthly average of 7,278 and 59% lower than December 2020, reflecting the impact of the adjournment of summary court business on 12th January.

Between April 2020 and January 2021 there were 32,391 (44%) 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 January 2021 court disposals to be similar to April 2019 to January 2020 levels.

From April to January 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.

31 January 2021
Monthly average 2019-20 Jan
Apr-Jan 2019-20 Apr-Jan 2020-21 Change
Imprisonment 1,011 699 -31% 10,224 6,259 -39%
Community Disposal (CPO & DTTO) 1,384 836 -40% 14,041 7,003 -50%
Restriction of Liberty Order 296 320 +8% 2,975 2,151 -28%
Fine etc. 3,106 1,126 -64% 31,437 15,916 -49%
Admonished/ Discharged 1,481 862 -42% 14,881 9,838 -34%

Overall, the number of crimes recorded by the police between April 2020 and January 2021 was 6% 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.

Further Information:

Latest SCTS published official statistics can be found here:

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. However, figures recorded in January, similar to December for initiations, were lower than previous months due to fewer court days as a result of the festive period. There was a small drop in disposals in January.

Line graph showing case volumes remain low, but gradually returning to normal levels as courts continue to emerge from lockdown.

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, although they were lower than previous months in January and December due to fewer court days as a result of the festive period. Summary cause is 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, with a drop in January for ordinary cause, while summary cause are much lower. 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 Sep-20 Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20 Jan-21 2019/20 monthly average
Initiated Ordinary cause 2,013 2,000 1,885 1,512 1,304 1,928
Summary cause 384 181 154 186 173 1,132
Small claim 3 1 2 4 0 2
Simple procedure 1,964 2,633 2,282 1,668 1,819 2,695
Total initiated 4,364 4,815 4,323 3,370 3,296 5,758
Disposed Ordinary cause 1,271 1,373 1,424 1,367 1,003 1,445
Summary cause 357 335 366 562 411 1,096
Small claim 13 4 2 4 1 5
Simple procedure 1,680 2,194 2,170 2,140 2,364 2,306
Total disposed 3,321 3,906 3,962 4,073 3,779 4,852

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.

Case types

In January 2021, all initiated and most disposed cases were below 2019-20 levels.

  • Initiated case types presented are gradually returning to 2019-20 levels, with month to month variation. They were lower for January compared with previous months due to fewer court days as a result of the festive period.
  • In January, for disposals, Debt had returned to 2019-20 levels, but Family, Children’s Referrals and Personal Injury were lower than 2019-20 average levels. Disposals were similarly affected by fewer court days in January.
Initiated Cases (Jan 21) Case Type Disposed Cases (Jan 21)
January 2021 Change from 19-20 January 2021 Change from 19-20
614 58% of 19-20 average month
(1,055 cases)
Family 589 65% of 19-20 average month
(910 cases)
343 57% of 19-20 average month
(602 cases)
Children’s Referrals 134 52% of 19-20 average month
(260 cases)
2,144 74% of 19-20 average month
(2,883 cases)
Debt 2,532 107% of 19-20 average month
(2,368 cases)
265 66% of 19-20 average month
(402 cases)
Personal Injury 175 57% of 19-20 average month
(306 cases)

Further Information:

Latest published Civil Justice Statistics can be found here:



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