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.

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This bulletin presents statistics on the number of people dealt with by the Scottish Criminal Justice System. The statistics are derived from data held on the Criminal History System (CHS), a central hub used for the electronic recording of information on persons accused and/or convicted of perpetrating a criminal act. The CHS is maintained by Police Scotland, who are also responsible for managing its operation.

Changes made to this year’s report

Some changes have been made to this year’s report as follows:

  • Additional topics on knife crime (Section 9) and offences with an ‘aggravator’ recorded e.g. domestic abuse cases (Section 12) have been included. Knife crime statistics were previously available on request while information on aggravators was published as a web only table. These have now been made more easily accessible in this document due to the high interest in these subject areas;
  • In addition, proceedings for offences at football matches (Section 6) have been brought into the main body of the report as these were previously presented in the annex and not easy for users to find;
  • A new table 10d has been created which presents a breakdown of custodial sentences by sentence length over the last ten years due to a high interest in numbers of short sentences (Section 8);
  • A methodological change was implemented for this year’s publication to estimate statistics on Early and Effective Interventions (EEIs). EEIs are measures used by the police to redirect juveniles away from the adult courts and the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA). This is the first time these statistics have been published and they can be seen in Section 14.

Please note that three tables on the patterns of bail have been removed from the standard tables accompanying this bulletin but are still available for download from the “Additional data” page. In addition, statistics on police undertakings have not been published this year due to concerns around data quality. We will investigate this issue further and provide an update in next year’s bulletin.

Routes through the Criminal Justice System

Chart 2 depicts the various possible routes through the criminal justice system. People who are accused of a crime can be dealt with in a variety of ways such as being dealt with directly by the police, being fined or warned by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) or being proceeded against in court. The number of people passing through the Criminal Justice System at a particular point in time depends in part on levels of crime made known to the police, as well as the measures that are available for use by criminal justice organisations at that time, as these can influence the point at which action is taken.

At each of the stages presented in Chart 2 information is logged on the CHS regarding the status of the accused. The COPFS and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) make updates on their own systems which are fed back electronically to Police Scotland’s CHS. When an offender’s case reaches its final conclusion it is considered completed and the case is “disposed” of from the criminal justice system. The option used to complete the case is referred to as the method of “disposal”, whether it is a court disposal used by SCTS or non-court disposal employed by the COPFS or the police.

Committing a crime

The statistical publication, Recorded Crime in Scotland 2014-15, was published on 8th September 2015. The Recorded Crime publication and this Criminal Proceedings publication divides violations of criminal law into (a) crimes and (b) offences (see Annex D for further detail). This distinction is made only for statistical reporting purposes.

As shown in Chart 2, the total number of crimes recorded by the police in Scotland in 2014-15 was 256,350, 5 per cent lower than in 2013-14 (270,397). This is the lowest level of recorded crime since 1974. The proportion of recorded crimes ‘cleared up’ by the police in 2014-15 decreased by 1.1 percentage points from 51.5 per cent in 2013-14 to 50.4 per cent in 2014-15. A crime is regarded as 'cleared-up' where there is enough evidence under Scots law to justify consideration of criminal proceedings.

The total number of offences recorded by the police decreased by almost one quarter (24%) from 501,281 in 2013-14 to 379,498 in 2014-15. It should be noted that the number of offences recorded by the police generally tends to be affected more by police activity and operational decisions than the number of crimes.

Please note that some offences included in this bulletin, such as failure to pay a television licence, are reported directly to the procurator fiscal by specialist reporting agencies such as TV Licensing and therefore are not included in the police recorded crime statistics.

Chart 2: Overview of action within the criminal justice system 2014-15

Chart 2: Overview of action within the criminal justice system 2014-15

1. Figures rounded to the nearest 100.
2. Crimes recorded in 2013-14 may not be cleared up or dealt with until 2014-15 or later.
3. A report to the procurator fiscal may involve more than one crime or offence and more than one alleged offender.
4. Reports to the fiscal on non-criminal matters such as sudden deaths, are not included in this total.
5. Number of people from CHS.
6. Following consultation, figures for motor vehicle offences are no longer collated centrally.
7. Number of cases; data from Crown Office.
8. Figures relate to cases which were closed as offer deemed accepted.
9. Figures for people with a charge proved count the number of occasions on which a person is convicted.

A number of outcomes may result in subsequent prosecutions or referrals to other agencies, for example if a condition such as payment of a fixed penalty is not complied with. For simplicity, these pathways are not shown in the diagram.

Police disposals and referrals

Chart 2 also shows that following a crime being cleared up, Police Scotland will either send a report to the COPFS to decide what action should be taken or will deal with the case directly. Section 14 of this report contains statistics on the following non-court disposals available to the police when dealing with a case directly:

  • Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notices (ASBFPNs) as provided for in the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 for a range of offences including drunken-related behaviours and playing loud music;
  • Formal adult warnings are for minor offences wherein a warning letter is issued to the offender;
  • Actions which are used specifically for juveniles (aged 8 to 17) such as restorative justice warnings and Early and Effective Interventions (EEI).

There are further options available to the police that we are not able to provide data on such as conditional offers of fixed penalty notice for moving motor vehicle offences.

A full listing of the range of disposals available can be seen in Annex D.

COPFS disposals and referrals

In 2014-15, the COPFS received 244,387 criminal reports (from the police and other specialist reporting agencies), a decrease of 17 per cent compared with 2013-14. Prosecution in court is only one of a range of possible options the COPFS has for dealing with people they have received a report for and they may decide to deal with some cases themselves. Statistics for the following non-court disposals are included in this publication:

  • Fiscal fines of between £50 and £300;
  • Compensation orders of up to £5,000;
  • Fixed penalties of between £50 and £300, generally issued for motor vehicle offences.

There are further actions that COPFS can take that are not included in this report such as fiscal warnings as well as diverting cases to social work and other agencies and referrals to the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA).

A full listing of the range of disposals available can be seen in Annex D.

Court disposals

The majority of statistics in this publication provide information on criminal cases brought to court and are contained in sections 1 to 13. The outcomes possible for the person proceeded against are:

  • The person is convicted, either after pleading guilty or being found guilty after evidence has been heard in court;
  • The person is acquitted following a not guilty verdict;
  • The person is acquitted following a not proven verdict;
  • The person has their plea of not guilty accepted by the prosecutor or the case against them is deserted.

More details on what each of these sentences comprise of is described in sections 8 to 10.

Comparability with other statistics

Please note that the statistics presented in Chart 2 are taken from multiple data sources which are not strictly comparable and there is no direct relationship between the number of crimes and offences recorded by the police and the number of follow-up actions taken by other agencies within the criminal justice system. For example, in the recorded crime statistics a single crime or offence recorded by the

police may have more than one perpetrator, each of whom would be counted separately in the criminal proceedings statistics.

In addition there are other comparability issues in that crimes or offences recorded and cleared up by the police may not be fully processed by the procurator fiscal or the courts in the same year. There is also the possibility that the crime or offence recorded by the police may be altered by the COPFS during their marking process.

For full details of comparability issues please see the relevant sections in Annex C.


Email: Gillian Diggins

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