Court proceedings and convictions
- A total of 123,242 people were proceeded against in court in 2014-15, a rise of one per cent on 2013-14 (121,753 proceedings). The number of people with a charge proved increased by less than one per cent to 106,507 in 2014-15. This is the second consecutive annual increase in convictions, in contrast to the generally downward trend of the last ten years.
- The small rise in convictions in 2014-15 was driven by an increase in breach of the peace convictions (up 13 per cent to 15,580 convictions) but offset by a decline in motor vehicle offence convictions (down by 3 per cent to 38,945).
- The increase in breach of the peace convictions was driven by offences with a domestic abuse aggravator, particularly for offences of “threatening or abusive behaviour” and stalking. The increase may be reflective of better recording of the aggravator information coupled with a strengthened emphasis on tackling domestic abuse in Scotland by both Police Scotland and the COPFS.
- The number of people convicted for sexual crimes continued to rise, with an eight per cent increase overall (from 1,057 in 2013-14 to 1,145 in 2014-15). Higher numbers of sexual offences may be, in part, explained by increased reporting in the wake of high profile cases.
- Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence continued to decline in 2014-15, with a four per cent fall to 1,718 convictions, compared to 1,781 in 2013-14. There were decreases in the number of convictions for homicide (12 per cent decline) and robbery (15 per cent) down to 80 and 377 people respectively, with levels for attempted murder & serious assault and “other violent” crimes remaining static.
- The number of convictions for rape and attempted rape increased by 40 per cent (from 89 in 2013-14 to 125 in 2014-15), sexual assault by 16 per cent (from 236 to 273) and other sexual crimes by 7 per cent (from 563 to 602). The number of convictions for crimes associated with prostitution fell by 14 per cent to 145, following an increase of 19 per cent the previous year.
- Financial penalties continue to account for the majority of court sentences (53 per cent), despite falling by two per cent to 56,843 in 2014-15. The number of financial penalties given in court has decreased over the last ten years, with current levels almost a third lower than at the start of the last decade (82,194 in 2005-06). It is thought the decline in the latest year relates to the decrease in motor vehicle offences, which are more likely to be given financial penalties (93 per cent received a financial penalty in 2014-15).
- The number of convictions resulting in a custodial sentence fell by 1 per cent in the year to 2014-15 (from 14,142 to 13,977). Custodial sentences represented 13 per cent of all convictions in 2014-15. This proportion has remained relatively stable over the last ten years, fluctuating between 12 and 15 per cent.
- Overall the average length of custodial sentences, excluding life sentences, in 2014-15 was around nine and a half months (285 days), which is 8 days (3 per cent) shorter than in 2013-14 (293 days). Over the longer term between 2005-06 and 2009-10, the average length of custodial sentences increased by 23 per cent from 229 days (7 and a half months) in 2005-06 to 281 days (over nine months) in 2009-10. Since then sentence lengths have remained broadly stable.
- The crime types with the longest average sentences in 2014-15 were rape and attempted rape, which decreased by 3 per cent (67 days) to just over six and a half years (2,435 days) and homicide convictions (excluding life sentences for murder), which decreased by 11 per cent (260 days) to just over five and a half years (2,075 days).
- Seventeen per cent (or 18,519) of all convictions in 2014-15 resulted in a main penalty of a community sentence, around the same as that in 2013-14 (18,273 convictions). Overall community sentences now account for a higher proportion of the total court sentences than they did in 2005-06, having increased by 5 percentage points from 12 per cent of all sentences in 2005-06.
- Community payback orders (CPO) make up the vast majority of community sentences (90 per cent or 16,693). CPO usage has increased since they were introduced in February 2011, replacing the previously used community service and probation orders.
Characteristics of offenders
- The number of convictions per 1,000 population has declined over the last ten years from 27 in 2005-06 to 22 in 2014-15. This fall has been driven by a decline for males, down to 38 convictions per 1,000 population in 2014-15 from 48 in 2005-06. The rate for females has remained stable over the ten years, ranging between 7 and 8 convictions per 1,000 population.
- Over the past 10 years the gap between the number of convictions per 1,000 population for younger people compared to older people has become smaller. This has been driven by a fall in the rate for younger people, whilst the rate for older people (aged 31 or above) has remained relatively stable.
- There were 21,862 offences with a charge proved with an aggravator recorded in 2014-15. The majority of these were for offences with a domestic abuse aggravator (15,452 or 71 per cent of all aggravated offences). In the year to 2014-15 there was a 14 per cent increase in the number of offence convictions with a domestic abuse aggravator recorded (15,452), up from 2013-14 (13,570 offence convictions). The increase may be reflective of better recording of the aggravator coupled with a strengthened emphasis on tackling domestic abuse in Scotland by both Police Scotland and the COPFS.
- The number of bail orders decreased by 1 per cent from 47,196 in 2013-14 to 46,560 in 2014-15. Over the longer term numbers have fallen by 25 per cent since 2006-07 (62,294 bail orders), when they were at their highest level of the last ten years. This decline is consistent with the longer term trend of reductions in the volume of cases coming to court.
- There were 8,467 bail-related offences in 2014-15 (e.g. breach of bail conditions, such as failure to appear in court after being granted bail), an increase of 6 per cent on 2013-14. The number of bail-related offences as a percentage of bail orders granted was 18 per cent. This is around the same as last year but 7 percentage points higher than in 2005-06 when it was 11 per cent.
- In 2014-15, the police gave 42,933 people an Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notice (ASBFPN) as a main penalty, a decrease of 23 per cent from 55,562 in 2013-14. This is in contrast to the fairly stable level of ASBFPNs used in the previous four years and may, in part, be due to Police Scotland recently issuing guidance around the use of ASBFPNs.
- Police formal adult warnings (FAW) were given as a main penalty to 4,723 people in 2014-15, down 34 per cent from 7,135 in 2013-14.
- In 2014-15 the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) issued 36,181 fiscal fines, down almost a quarter (24 per cent) from 2013-14.
- A total of 15,478 people were issued a fiscal fixed penalty in 2014-15, down a third (34 per cent) on 2013-14 (23,494).
Email: Gillian Diggins
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