Summary of offences dealt with by courts, sentencing outcomes and characteristics of convicted offenders. Additional information on non-court penalties issued by the Police and Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service.

15. COPFS Disposals

(Tables 21-24)

When a report is submitted by the police to the COPFS, prosecution in court is only one of a range of possible options for dealing with people who have been charged. COPFS can decide to take no action (e.g. if there is insufficient evidence, or if it is not in the public interest to proceed). Alternatively COPFS can decide to use a non-court direct measure such as a fiscal warning or a diversion from prosecution.

Of the COPFS disposals included in this publication, in 2014-15 two thirds were fiscal fines (36,181 people) with a further 29 per cent being fiscal fixed penalties (15,478). The remainder were made up of compensation orders, where the fine is paid to the victim, and a combination of a fine and compensation. A full listing of the range of disposals available can be seen in Annex D.

Fiscal fines

Fiscal fines of between £50 and £300 can be offered to the alleged offender by the COPFS as an alternative to prosecution. This means if the fine is paid the person involved does not get a criminal record, however, if the fine is not paid the case may still proceed to court.

In 2014-15 36,181 people were issued a fiscal fine as a main penalty, a decline of 24 per cent from 47,338 in 2013-14. This decline follows a period of 3 years when numbers of fiscal fines were above 42,000 but the level in 2014-15 is comparable to those prior to 2010-11.

Fiscal fines as main penalties were most commonly issued for the following crimes:

  • Thirty-four per cent were for Drugs (12,352 fines);
  • Fifteen per cent were for Unlawful use of vehicle (5,301 fines);
  • Thirteen per cent were for Communications Act offences (mainly TV licensing), which totalled 4,874 fines;
  • Alcohol bylaw offences that relate to drinking alcohol in designated areas where it is prohibited attracted 12 per cent of the total (4,507 fines).

Nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of all fiscal fines in 2014-15 were issued to males. The most noticeable differences for males and females for which fiscal fines were issued are presented in chart 16. For example 41 per cent of fiscal fines issued to males were for drugs offences compared to 15 per cent for females and 34 per cent overall.

Chart 16: Fiscal fines, percentage issued by crime type and gender

Chart 16: Fiscal fines, percentage issued by crime type and gender

Fiscal fixed penalties

Crown Office Fixed Penalties (COFPs) are generally issued for motor vehicle offences. In 2014-15, 15,478 COFPs were issued to people as a main penalty, a decrease of 34 per cent from 23,494 in 2013-14.

The decrease was driven by a fall in penalties for:

  • Other motor vehicle offences” (including mobile phone offences and seatbelt offences) down 45 per cent to 4,002 from 7,306 in 2013-14; and
  • Speeding offence penalties, down 28 per cent to 5,701.

Chart 17: Most common offences for Fiscal Fixed Penalties, 2014-15

Chart 17: Most common offences for Fiscal Fixed Penalties, 2014-15

The breakdown of COFPs in 2014-15 was as follows:

  • Thirty-seven per cent for were for speeding offences (5,698 penalties);
  • Twenty-six per cent were for “other motor vehicle offences”, which includes mobile phone and seatbelt offences, totalling 4,000 penalties; and
  • Eighteen per cent were for documentation offences (such as using a vehicle without a test certificate, without a licence or failure to insure), totalling 2,851.

In 2014-15, more than three quarters (78 per cent or 12,013) of COFPs were issued to males and over half (54 per cent or 8,304) of all COFPs were issued to males aged over 30.


Email: Gillian Diggins

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