3 Diversion from prosecution
3.1 In the case of more minor offences, the Procurator Fiscal may decide to refer the case to criminal justice social work rather than prosecuting the individual through the courts or offering other fiscal direct measures. In such cases, prosecution is waived, subject to successful completion of the scheme. Diversion from prosecution schemes have been in existence in Scotland since the early 1980s and aim to provide support and advice in relation to the underlying causes of offending, such as problematic substance use. In the late 1990s, the Scottish Office provided funding for a number of pilot schemes, which were rolled out across Scotland in 2000. Historically, diversion involves relatively low volumes compared to other fiscal disposals such as fines and warnings, or court proceedings.
3.2 While the number of diversion cases commenced fluctuated around the 1,000 mark prior to 2011-12 (see additional datasets which accompany this publication), they now sit at around double that level. The total of 2,000 in 2016-17 showed a 7 per cent increase on 2015-16 ( Table 1). There was a sharp rise in the proportion of cases where the person was employed/self-employed, from 19 per cent of the total in 2015-16 to 29 per cent in 2016-17 ( Table 4).
3.3 During 2016-17, there were also 3,400 referrals, 2,900 assessments and 1,500 cases completed ( Table 3).
3.4 While the number of cases commenced rose only slightly between 2015-16 and 2016-17, they fell sharply, by 18 per cent, for 16 to 20 year olds ( Table 4). By contrast, numbers rose for all age groups among those aged 21 and over. Despite this, those aged 16 to 20 are substantially over-represented when the population base is taken into account - they account for 33 per cent of people getting diversion from prosecution but only 8 per cent of the population aged 16 to 70. This continues to reflect a general focus on diversion for younger people.