Costs of the criminal justice system in Scotland dataset: 2016-17 (published December 2019)

Figures on costs of the criminal justice system.

This document is part of a collection

This publication presents figures on costs of the criminal justice system. It is set out in four tables as follows:

  • Expenditure on the adult criminal justice system 2016-17
  • Estimates of the unit expenditures of criminal court procedures
  • Estimates of the unit expenditures of community disposals/services.
  • Illustrative estimates of the economic and social costs of crime

Table 1. Expenditure on the criminal justice system 2016-17

Table one presents final expenditure figures (as opposed to budget allocations) in relation to the criminal justice system. While this focusses on the adult criminal justice system, in some cases, notably policing costs, it has not been possible to isolate expenditure relating to adults. Further details are set out in the notes to the table.

Table 2. Estimates of the unit expenditures of criminal court procedures

Table two sets out the most recent estimates of the unit costs of criminal court procedures in relation to Prosecution, Court and Legal Aid costs, in the High Court of Justiciary, Sheriff Court Solemn business, Sheriff Court Summary business and Justice of the Peace Courts.

Unit expenditure estimates must be used with care. Clearly, the costs of individual court procedures may differ markedly from the average depending on the complexity of the case in question. In addition, the average unit cost may not be an accurate representation of the additional cost of conducting one additional procedure, as some costs (such as the costs of buildings) will change only with a significant change in the level of activity. However, the average unit costs are a reasonable representation of costs in the longer term, when any spare capacity may be exhausted or fixed costs alter.

It should be noted that in the case of court costs, the figures for Evidence led Trials reflect the costs of a ‘case’ and may include one or more accused persons. Costs of pleas reflect the costs relating to an individual accused.

Table 3. Estimates of the Unit Costs of Disposals

Table three provides illustrative estimates of the unit expenditures of community sentences. The notes to the table explain how each figure was derived, however it is important to note that many are described in terms of funding allocations rather than evidence on how much it costs to deliver these disposals. Therefore, as with the estimates of the cost of court procedures, the estimates of the unit costs of disposals should be treated with care.

Table 4. Estimates of Economic and Social Costs of Crime

Table four sets out estimates of economic and social costs of crime including costs for:

  • the anticipation of crime (e.g. defensive expenditure such as household alarms and insurance administration);
  • the consequences of crime (e.g. value of property stolen/damaged, lost output and emotional or physical impact of crime); and
  • responses to crime (e.g. police, health services, prosecution, court, legal aid, criminal justice social work, and prisons).

The figures are developed from various sources of crime data such as the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, which publishes data on the actual levels of crime experienced by the public, not just those crimes that are reported to the police. Costs for particular crime types are based on UK Home Office estimates of economic and social costs of crime, adjusted to 2016-17 prices.

This edition of the publication features a more significant update to this table (4) in particular. The estimated “unit costs” of some crimes have fallen or risen since the previous publication. This is primarily driven by changes to the way that the impacts of those crime can be measured and valued – the Home Office paper that this table draws heavily upon was updated in July 2018, and as a result many of the associated “unit costs” changed considerably from the unit costs estimated in previous publications. A full discussion of this can be found in the Home Office papers referenced.

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