1. Trends in persons proceeded against and convicted
Unless otherwise stated, references in this bulletin to the crime or offence group for which a person is proceeded against or convicted relate to the main charge involved. The main charge is the crime or offence receiving the most severe penalty if one or more charges are proved in a single proceeding (as defined in Annex C). The final column of Table 4(a) provides counts of individual offences with a charge proved regardless of whether or not they were the main offence involved. Please note that where a person is subject to two (or more) separate proceedings, they will be counted two (or more) times in the figures presented in this bulletin.
A total of 116,800 people were proceeded against in court in 2015-16, a fall of five per cent on 2014-15 (123,369 proceedings). The number of convictions fell at a slightly faster rate to 99,950, down six per cent on 2014-15 (106,622). This continues the general downward trend of the last ten years. It is in contrast to the rises in court activity seen between 2012-13 and 2014-15, a result of a short term rise in the number of motor vehicle offence cases reaching court. Convictions in 2015-16 were 26 per cent lower than the peak of 134,416 in 2006-07.
2. Trends in conviction rates
Please note that tables 4a-c have been revised so users can access detail on conviction rates over the last ten years by crime type. Conviction rates are calculated by dividing the number of people convicted by the number of people proceeded against. Previously only the number of convictions by crime type was made available for the last ten years but those figures did not provide context for the number of proceedings to allow conviction rates to be calculated by users.
Eighty-six per cent of people proceeded against in court in 2015-16 were convicted after being found guilty of at least one charge (99,950 people). This is the same proportion as in 2014-15 but four percentage points less than in 2006-07 when 90 per cent of people were convicted.
Conviction rates are highest for motor vehicle offences, with 93 per cent of people proceeded against being convicted in 2015-16. In particular, speeding offences had a conviction rate of 98 per cent whilst the lowest rate was for rape and attempted rape (48 per cent). Further detail for acquittals can be seen in section 3 with respect to rape and attempted rape.
Over the last ten years the largest declines in conviction rates have been for:
- "Crimes associated with prostitution", down 24 percentage points from 97 per cent in 2006-07 to 74 per cent in 2015-16; and
- Sexual assault, down 17 percentage points from 79 per cent in 2006-07 to 62 in 2015-16. This coincides with a period of time over which the number of proceedings for these types of crimes have nearly doubled, up 86 per cent from 236 proceedings 2006-07 to 448 in 2015-16.
3. Acquittals by crime type
As outlined in section 2, there was an 86 per cent conviction rate in 2015-16 (calculated by dividing the number of people convicted by the number of people proceeded against). Six per cent were acquitted on a 'not guilty' verdict, and around 1 per cent were acquitted on a 'not proven' verdict. The remaining 8 per cent either had a plea of 'not guilty' accepted or their case was deserted by the prosecution. These proportions are broadly the same as in 2014-15.
The overall acquittal rate (for 'not guilty' and 'not proven' verdicts) of 7 per cent is weighted by the acquittal rates of the crime types within crimes of dishonesty (2 per cent), motor vehicle offences (3 per cent) and "other crimes" (4 per cent), which make up around 60 per cent of all proceedings (70,179).
Chart 3: Crime types with the highest acquittal rates
Chart 3 shows the crime types with the highest acquittal rates in comparison with the overall rate of 7 per cent in 2015-16:
- The highest rate was seen for rape and attempted rape, where 48 per cent or 105 people of the 216 proceeded against were acquitted;
- There were also high acquittal rates for sexual assault (33 per cent had their case acquitted), attempted murder and serious assault (26 per cent) and homicide etc. (24 per cent); and
- Crimes of common assault and other non-sexual crimes of violence had relatively high acquittal rates in comparison with the 7 per cent average for all crimes, both standing at 16 per cent.
Twenty-one per cent of people proceeded against for theft of a motor vehicle had a plea of not guilty accepted or the case against them was deserted, the highest proportion of all crime groups.
4. People convicted by court type
There are three main court types that deal with criminal cases in Scotland:
- The high court, which deals with the most serious crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery. A single judge hears cases with a jury of 15 people.
- Sheriff Courts, which deal with the majority of cases in Scotland. These can either be solemn, where the Sheriff sits with a jury of 15 people or summary, where the Sheriff sits alone. The maximum penalty that may be imposed for summary cases is 1 years' imprisonment or a £10,000 fine. For solemn cases the maximum penalty is 5 years' imprisonment or an unlimited fine.
- Justice of the Peace courts deal with the less serious crimes, such as speeding, careless driving and breach of the peace. They are chaired by a justice of the peace or "lay magistrate" who has been appointed from the local community and trained in criminal law and procedure.
In addition, up until 31st March 2016, there was a stipendiary court held in the Justice of the Peace Court premises in Glasgow. The stipendiary court was brought to an end by the Court Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. A stipendiary magistrate had the same sentencing powers as in the sheriff summary court and dealt with more serious sheriff summary business such as drink driving, dangerous driving and assault. Activity for this court is therefore included in the sheriff summary total for the purposes of this publication with statistics reflective of activity up till its closure.
Chart 4 shows that 59 per cent of convictions in 2015-16 were in sheriff summary courts, 6 percentage points less than ten years ago when levels were at 65 per cent in 2006-07. The fall reflects the growing share of activity in Justice of the Peace (JP) courts, which accounted for 35 per cent of convictions in 2015-16 compared to 31 per cent in 2006-07. This is consistent with the aims of Summary Justice Reform which was introduced in 2007, which included enhancing the capacity of Justices of the Peace to act as judges and making effective use of non-court disposals. See Annex E for more detail.
The share of activity in sheriff solemn courts has also risen, up 2 percentage points from 3 per cent in 2006-07 to 5 per cent in 2015-16, a large change for relatively small proportion.
Chart 4: Proportion of convictions by court type, 2006-07 to 2015-16
A total of 99,950 people were convicted in 2015-16, a fall of six per cent on levels in 2014-15 (106,622). The annual change varied by court type with:
- Activity in Justice of the Peace (JP) courts driving the overall decline with a 15 per cent fall from 41,333 convictions in 2014-15 to 35,179 in 2015-16. The decline follows relatively high levels in 2013-14 and 2014-15 of over 41,000 convictions in each year, which can be attributed, in part, to a rise in motor vehicle offence business, which are types of offences JP courts tend to deal with. Motor vehicle convictions dropped slightly in the year to 2014-15 (down 3 per cent to 38,966) but more considerably in 2015-16, down 16 per cent to 32,569 convictions.
- Convictions in Sheriff Summary courts fell by 1 per cent to 59,197 in 2015-16 down from 59,950 in 2014-15.
- The number of convictions in Sheriff solemn courts increased by 5 per cent in 2015-16 up to 4,988 convictions from 4,757 in 2014-15. This is the highest level in sheriff solemn courts since 2007-08.
- The number of high court convictions remained comparable in 2015-16 at 586 convictions (a 1 per cent increase from 582 in 2014-15). Please note that recording delays are typical for high court activity due to the complex nature of cases held there. As a result the total number of high court convictions for more recent years may be slightly underestimated.
5. People convicted by crime/ offence
This publication divides violations of criminal law into (a) crimes and (b) offences. This distinction is made only for statistical reporting purposes. Although the violations allocated under "crimes" tend to be more serious there are some "offences" that have more severe punishments associated with them e.g. drink driving is classified under "offences" under "motor vehicle offences" rather than under "crimes". See Annex D for a full listing of the classification.
A total of 99,950 people had a charge proved in 2015-16, a decline of six per cent on levels in 2014-15 (106,622). In 2015-16 "crimes" made up 35,721 of the total number of convictions (36 per cent) while "offences" stood at 64,229 (64 per cent). The rate of decline was higher for offences in the year to 2015-16 (down 8 per cent) than for crimes (down 2 per cent), which can be attributed to the 16 per cent fall in motor vehicle offence convictions.
6. People convicted by crime group
Non-sexual crimes of violence
Non-sexual crimes of violence include the crimes of homicide, attempted murder & serious assault, robbery and other violent crime (see Annex D for a full listing). Convictions for these types of crimes rose by one per cent in 2015-16 up to 1,765 from 1,739 in 2014-15. Despite the increase this is 28 per cent lower than the level of convictions in 2006-07 (2,461 convictions).
The largest rise for an individual crime type with non-sexual crimes of violence was for attempted murder and serious assault, up 6 per cent from 1,049 convictions in 2014-15 to 1,112. The number of convictions for "homicide etc" also increased, up by 5 per cent from 80 convictions in 2014-15 to 84 in 2015-16. Although there has been an in increase in the latest year, the number of convictions for homicide is 31 per cent lower than in 2006-07 (121 convictions).
Convictions for the following groups within "non-sexual crimes of violence" both fell to the lowest level in ten years with:
- Robbery, down 2 per cent from 385 convictions in 2014-15 to 379 in 2015-16; and
- Other violent crime declining by 16 per cent from 225 convictions in 2014-15 to 190 in 2015-16.
The number of convictions for sexual crimes remained broadly static in 2015-16 at 1,156 convictions. This follows four consecutive annual rises, with convictions in 2015-16 now 53 per cent higher than in 2010-11 (756 convictions). The rise since 2010-11, in part, reflects an increased level of reporting in the wake of high profile cases and a corresponding rise in the number of people being proceeded against in court, up 72 per cent since 2010-11 from 933 proceedings to 1,606 in 2015-16.
The number of convictions for rape and attempted rape decreased by 16 per cent (from 124 in 2014-15 to 104 in 2015-16). This is within the context of the number of proceedings for these crimes also declining, down 20 per cent from 270 in 2014-15 to 216 proceedings in 2015-16. Despite this year's fall, the number of convictions for rape and attempted rape have nearly tripled since 2010-11 (36 convictions). Please note that recording delays are typical for high court activity due to the complex nature of cases held there. As a result the number of convictions for rape and attempted rape for 2015-16 may be slightly underestimated.
The number of sexual assault convictions remained broadly stable in 2015-16, up by one per cent 279 convictions. This follows three consecutive rises in convictions since 2011-12 (151 convictions) with numbers now 85 per cent higher.
Chart 5: Sexual crime type convictions, 2006-07 to 2015-16
Over the last ten years chart 5 shows that it is other sexual crimes that have grown as a proportion of all sexual crimes to make up the majority. "Other sexual crimes" made up 41 per cent of all sexual offence convictions in 2010-11 (315 convictions) but their share rose to 59 per cent by 2015-16 (687 convictions). The growth in the proportion of this crime type has been driven by increases in convictions for "taking, distribution, possession etc of indecent photos of children" convictions. Other sexual crime convictions continued to rise this year up by 13 per cent from 607 in 2014-15 to 687 in 2015-16.
Countering the increase in other sexual offences was a decline in the relative share of convictions for crimes associated with prostitution, which fell from 32 per cent of all sexual crimes in 2010-11 to 7 per cent in 2015-16. Given the small numbers for these types of proceedings there are year on year fluctuations for levels of convictions for these types of crimes. In 2015-16 there was a decline of 41 per cent to 86 convictions, a fall from 145 in 2014-15. The fall in convictions has been driven by both a fall in the conviction rate (down 8 percentage points from 82 per cent in 2014-15 to 74 per cent in 2015-16) and a fall in the number of proceedings down 34 per cent to 117 in the year to 2015-16.
Crimes of dishonesty
As a proportion of all crimes, convictions for crimes of dishonesty (which is mainly shoplifting and theft) accounted for nearly a third (32 per cent) of all convictions in 2015-16 (11,580 convictions). As shown in chart 6 convictions for these types of crimes have steadily declined in the last ten years down from 18,382 in 2006-07 to 11,580 convictions in 2015-16 (a drop of 37 per cent).
The total number of proceedings has declined at a similar rate, down 36 per cent from 20,641 in 2006-07 to 13,208 in 2015-16. This similar rate of decline is reflective of fairly stable conviction rates for crimes of dishonesty, which have varied between 86 and 89 per cent over the last ten years.
Chart 6: Convictions for Crimes of Dishonesty
Overall convictions for crimes of dishonesty declined by 8 per cent in 2015-16, down to 11,580 convictions from 12,538 in 2014-15. There were declines in all crime types within crimes of dishonesty, between 2014-15 and 2015-16:
- Housebreaking convictions declined by 13 per cent from 982 to 853 convictions;
- Theft from motor vehicle convictions, fell by 11 per cent from 112 to 100 convictions; and
- Fraud convictions down by 10 per cent from 603 to 544 and 60 per cent lower than in 2006-07 (1,356 convictions).
7. People convicted by offence group
All "offence" convictions totalled 64,229 in 2015-16. As a proportion of all offences, common assault and breach of the peace made up 44 per cent while speeding and unlawful use of a vehicle accounted for 29 per cent. These proportions have remained at broadly similar levels since 2006-07.
Motor vehicle offences
Motor vehicle offence convictions declined by 16 per cent from 38,966 convictions in 2014-15 to 32,569 in 2015-16. This drop follows a marked rise of 14 per cent in motor vehicle offences in 2013-14 which was attributed, in part, to Police Scotland's road safety priority. There have since been changes in guidelines issued to officers around these types of offences and in 2015-16 declines were observed for each of the motor vehicle offence groups except dangerous and careless driving which rose by 5 per cent from 3,414 convictions in 2014-15 to 3,572 in 2015-16.
The crime groups within motor vehicle offence convictions which decreased the most between 2014-15 and 2015-16 were for:
- Seat belt offences down 78 per cent from 2,172 convictions to 481;
- Mobile phone offences down 28 per cent from 3,163 to 2,279; and
- Unlawful use of motor vehicle down 24 per cent from 8,305 to 6,331.
Convictions for driving under the influence decreased by 4 per cent from 3,681 in 2014-15 to 3,539 in 2015-16 and is the 9th consecutive annual fall. There was a change in legislation in Scotland which reduced the alcohol limit for drivers from 80 mg to 50 mg per 100 ml blood as of 5th December 2014. This publication contains the first full years' worth of data (2015-16) since the limit was changed.
The vast majority of "miscellaneous offences" are breach of the peace and common assault offences. Both groups showed increases for convictions between 2014-15 and 2015-16:
- Breach of the peace category, up 5 per cent from 15,588 to 16,298 convictions. This has been driven by a rise in the number of "threatening or abusive behaviour" and stalking convictions, offences that are classified within the breach of the peace total; and
- Common assault, up 3 per cent from 11,768 to 12,079 convictions.
Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012
The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 criminalises offensive or threatening behaviour in relation to regulated football matches likely to incite public disorder. The Act also criminalises making communications which contain threats of serious violence, or which contain threats intended to incite religious hatred. Crimes under the Act are categorised within the breach of the peace crime type. Depending on the circumstances, offences of disorderly and offensive behaviour at football matches could also be charged under other breach of the peace charges such as threatening and abusive behaviour under section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.
Table A shows that there were 132 people convicted for offences under the Act in 2015-16. When compared with the number of people proceeded against, this represents a conviction rate of 75 per cent. The total number of people proceeded against almost doubled between 2014-15 and 2015-16 (up from 96 to 175 proceedings), however it is important to bear in mind that the overall number is still relatively low and subject to annual fluctuations.
Table A: People proceeded against under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 20121
|Section 1: Offensive Behaviour at Football|
Section 6: Threatening Communications
|Section 1 and 6|
1- Where main charge
Please note that these statistics are not directly comparable with the COPFS report Hate Crime in Scotland or the Scottish Government publication Charges reported under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 in 2015-16. Both of those outputs use COPFS figures which measure individual charges at the case marking stage while statistics in this report are representative of closed cases that have reached a final verdict in court. Whilst the other reports include information on the disposal in court they are only counted if the charges were proceeded against and closed by the time the information was compiled. Some charges marked by the COPFS for court action will not have received a final verdict and will still be on-going at the time the reports were published. Information on convictions from the COPFS data source is thus provisional at the time of publication and subject to change. Please see Annex C for more detail on COPFS data sources.
8. Headlines in court sentencing
The main types of punishment or disposal given to those found guilty in Scottish Courts are custodial sentences, community sentences and financial penalties. Sections 9-12 provide statistics on these types of punishments. In addition, for less serious cases or where it is felt the main punishment types are not suitable, the individual found guilty can be "admonished" (given a verbal warning from the sheriff). A full listing of the range of court disposals is outlined in Annex D.
Of all people convicted during 2015-16:
- Fifty per cent were issued financial penalties (49,918);
- Nineteen per cent were issued community sentences (18,943); and
- Fourteen per cent were issued custodial sentences (13,735);
A further seventeen per cent of people were issued other sentences (17,354), which are mostly admonishments.
Chart 7: Sentences imposed, 2006-07 and 2015-16
9. Custodial Sentences
Custodial sentences comprise convicted people who are sent to prison or a young offenders institution. Compared to the overall number of convictions falling by 6 per cent in the year to 2015-16, the number of custodial sentences fell by 2 per cent (from 14,035 in 2014-15 to 13,735 in 2015-16). Levels of custodial sentences have generally declined since the peak of 16,946 custodial sentences in 2008-09 and are now 19 per cent below that peak. Custodial sentences represented 14 per cent of all convictions in 2015-16. This proportion has remained relatively stable over the last ten years fluctuating between 12 and 15 per cent.
New statistics on extended sentences and Supervised Release Orders
A methodological change was implemented for this year's publication to include statistics on extended sentences and supervised release orders. These sentences are for offenders who have served time in prison but have an additional post-release supervision period attached to their sentence (see Annex D for more details). Inclusion of these sentences compliment the statistics on Orders for Lifelong Restriction (orders for post custodial supervision of high-risk violent and sexual offenders).
Please note that we do not have information on the length of the supervision period on our dataset, just the length of the custodial part of the sentence. There are more details in Annex B on how this change impacts the statistics as a whole.
Length of custodial sentences
Courts will consider the full facts and circumstances of a case before deciding an appropriate sentence in a given case. This includes whether or not the offender has been convicted before and whether there are any other mitigating circumstances. These statistics do not take into account the factors influencing the sentencing decisions.
All of the twenty-seven people issued life sentences in 2015-16 received these for murder. When a court imposes a life sentence, a minimum period in custody, called the "punishment part" is set by the court before the prisoner can be considered for release on licence by the parole board. On licence means that a life prisoner is subject to recall to prison if they breach the terms of their release for the rest of his or her life.
Average custodial sentence
Information on the minimum custodial period of a life sentence is not available from the criminal proceedings database, therefore it is not possible to incorporate these sentences into the average sentence length. The average length of custodial sentences for all crimes, excluding life sentences, in 2015-16 was around nine and a half months (292 days), which is 3 days (1 per cent) longer than in 2014-15 (289 days). Over the longer term, between 2006-07 and 2009-10, custodial sentences increased by 50 days (22 per cent), from 232 days (7 and a half months) in 2006-07 to 282 days (over nine months) in 2009-10. Since then sentence lengths have remained broadly stable.
Categories of custodial sentence length
The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 commenced in February 2011 and introduced a presumption against short sentences (3 months or less). This presumption states that a court must not pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 3 months or less on a person unless the court considers that no other method of dealing with the person is appropriate.
Due to a high interest in the length of custodial sentences, a further breakdown has been provided to the previously reported category of "over six months to 2 years". This category has now been subdivided into "over 6 months to 1 year" and "over 1 year to 2 years" in order to provide a greater degree of clarity.
Chart 8 illustrates patterns of custodial sentence length by specific categories. In 2006-07 the most common length was "up to 3 months" (8,825 people), which made up 53 per cent of custodial sentences. Over the ten year period levels have dropped with sentences of "up to 3 months" making up 30 per cent of custodial sentences in 2015-16. Please note that these sentences started to fall before the presumption was introduced.
Chart 8: Length of Custodial Sentences, 2006-07 to 2015-16
Other patterns show that:
- Custodial sentences of "over 3 to 6 months" accounted for 26 per cent of custodial sentences in 2006-07 (4,334 people) and rose to 39 per cent (6,153 people) by 2011-12. Since 2011-12 these types of sentences have made up the largest proportion of the categories presented standing at 35 per cent in 2015-16;
- Sentences of "over 6 months to 1 year" made up 8 per cent in 2006-07 (1,407 people), rising to 16 per cent by 2015-16 (2,249 people);
- Similarly the share of custodial sentences "over one year to 2 years" has also been increasing. They made up 6 per cent in 2006-07 (992 people), rising to 11 per cent by 2015-16 (1,481 people); and
- The proportion of custodial sentences of "2 years to under 4 years" and "4 years and over" the longest categories of custodial sentence, have remained broadly constant over the last ten years, at around 5 and 3 per cent of all custodies respectively.
10. Custodial Sentences by type of crime
Custodial Sentences for Non-sexual Crimes of Violence
Homicide comprises murder, culpable homicide (i.e. without intent) and the statutory crimes of causing death by dangerous or careless driving, causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, driving illegally when involved in a fatal accident and corporate homicide.
Seventy-three per cent or 61 of the 84 people convicted of homicide in 2015-16 were given a custodial sentence, 4 percentage points higher than in 2014-15 (69 per cent). Care should be taken when considering annual changes for small numbers of convictions but should note that the conviction rate is still lower than in years preceding 2014-15 when the proportion of homicide convictions receiving custodial sentences ranged from 88 to 98 per cent (2006-07 to 2013-14). This can, in part, be attributed to a higher proportion of "causing death by careless driving" crimes making up the total of homicide convictions than in previous years and that these types of homicide tend to attract non-custodial sentences.
Around 44 per cent of custody sentences for homicide were life sentences imposed for murder (27 people). The remainder, who were convicted for other types of homicide, were given an average sentence of just over five years (1,913 days), 109 days (5 per cent) shorter than in 2014-15 (five and a half years or 2,022 days) and the shortest average for homicide in ten years.
Other changes in average custodial sentences for non-sexual crimes of violence between 2014-15 and 2015-16 are as follows:
- A fall of 94 days (9 per cent) for "attempted murder and serious assault", down from 1,009 days to 915 days but higher than lengths in 2012-13;
- A fall of 17 per cent for robbery, down by 160 days to two years (767 days) and comparable with lengths in 2009-10.
Custodial Sentences for Sexual Crimes
As shown in chart 9, custody was the most frequently used punishment for "rape and attempted rape", being served to 91 per cent of people with a charge proven. Custodial sentences for "rape and attempted rape" attracted the longest average custodial sentence of all crime types (other than life sentences for murder). The average sentence length for this kind of crime increased in 2015-16, up 182 days (8 per cent) to 2,572 days (seven years) and is the highest average sentence for rape and attempted rape since 2007-08.
Sexual assault sentences were, on average, 149 days (17 per cent) longer than in 2014-15, rising to 1,025 days (over two and a half years in length) in 2015-16. Although there has been a rise, the average sentence length was comparably low in 2013-14 and 2014-15 (at just under two and a half years) and is now at a comparable length to 2012-13.
Custodial Sentences for Crimes of Dishonesty
Overall the average custodial sentence length for crimes of dishonesty increased from 181 days in 2014-15 to 193 days in 2015-16, a rise of 7 per cent and 60 days longer (45 per cent) than in 2006-07 when the average stood at 133 days. The average custodial sentence increased for all crime types with the exception of theft by opening a lockfast place, down 7 per cent (16 days) to 215 days.
Other noticeable trends for crimes of dishonesty included:
- Around 62 per cent of housebreaking convictions received custodial sentences in 2015-16, four percentage points higher than in 2014-15 (58 per cent). This was the highest proportion of housebreaking convictions for which custodial sentences have been imposed in the last decade. In 2015-16 the average custodial sentence for housebreaking was over a year (425 days), 11 per cent longer than in 2014-15 (382 days). The average sentence length is twice the length than in 2006-07 (211 days).
- The percentage of convictions for fraud that resulted in a custodial sentence was 30 in 2015-16, an increase of 8 percentage points. The average sentence length has increased by 35 per cent since 2006-07 up to 332 days, the highest average sentence in ten years.
Chart 9: Average sentence length (excluding life sentences) and per cent receiving custody, by crime and offence group, 2015-161
1 - Excludes crime types where the number of people setenced to prison is less than 30.
Custodial Sentences for Handling Offensive Weapons
Sections 47 and 49 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 make provision for the offences of:
- Carrying offensive weapons;
- Having in a public place an article with a blade or point.
These two offences make up the crime group "handling offensive weapons", statistics for which are presented in the standard tables accompanying this publication. As shown in Table B there were 1,493 people convicted of "handling offensive weapons" in 2015-16, of which nearly two-thirds were for carrying knives i.e. "having in a public place an article with a blade or point" (943 convictions). The remainder related to crimes for other weapons such as baseball bats, bottles and pieces of wood. Firearm offences are not included in the "handling offensive weapons" category but are included within "other miscellaneous offences".
Statistics for carrying knives are not published separately in the standard tables accompanying this bulletin but are presented below alongside trends for all "handling offensive weapons".
Table B: Sentencing for handling offensive weapons
"Handling offensive weapons"
Possession of a sharp instrument/blade or other offensive weapon
|Number convicted||3,547||1,586||1,493 %|
|Receiving a custodial sentence||30%||37%||34%|
|Average custodial sentence||160||369||365|
|Knife offences only: "Having in a public placean article with a blade or point"||Number convicted||1,755||942||943 %|
|Receiving a custodial sentence||37%||42%||39%|
|Average custodial sentence||168||392||378|
The proportion of convictions for handling offensive weapons which received a custodial sentence decreased by 3 percentage points from 37 per cent in 2014-15 to 34 per cent in 2015-16, the lowest proportion in five years. The trend in custodial sentencing for knife offences is similar, albeit with a higher proportion receiving a custodial sentence, declining by three percentage points from 42 per cent in 2014-15 to 39 per cent in 2015-16.
The average custodial sentence length for handling offensive weapons has more than doubled in the last ten years, from 160 days in 2006-07 to 365 days in 2015-16. Whilst this is the case, in 2015-16 the average sentence length for this type of offence was similar to the previous year, dipping slightly from 369 days in 2014-15 (a decline of 1 per cent). The trend over the last ten years is similar for knife offences, with the average custodial sentence length being around 4 per cent longer than that of handling offensive weapons, at 378 days in 2015-16.
11. Community Sentences
Community sentence is a collective term for the ways that courts can punish someone convicted of committing an offence other than by serving a custodial sentence. There is a wide range of options available in the Scottish courts, which are listed at Annex D.
Nineteen per cent (or 18,943) of all convictions in 2015-16 resulted in a main penalty of a community sentence. These account for a higher proportion of the total court sentences than ten years ago, up 7 percentage points from 12 per cent in 2006-07. There was a 2 per cent rise in community sentences in 2015-16, up from 18,616 in 2014-15.
Chart 10: Persons issued community sentences, 2006-07 to 2015-16
Community Payback Orders (CPO) enable the courts to impose a range of requirements including unpaid work and supervision as well as being put through a programme of rehabilitation to address their behaviours (see Annex D for full details). CPOs replaced probation and community service orders for offences committed on or after 1st February 2011. This is reflected in the statistics as the number of people receiving CPOs rose sharply between 2010-11 (461 CPOs) and 2013-14 (16,375 CPOs). Numbers remained stable in the year to 2015-16 at 16,742 people, representing 88 per cent of all community sentences.
A Restriction of Liberty Order (RLO) is a court order that requires a person to remain within a location, usually their home, at times specified by the court. A person's compliance with the order is monitored electronically. RLOs made up 9 per cent of people receiving community sentences in 2015-16 (1,646 RLOs), rising 40 per cent from 1,177 in 2014-15. Please note that these statistics on RLOs will not match the statistics published by G4S, the Scottish Government's contractor for electronic monitoring. This is because the statistics in this publication are representative of the main charge in a set of proceedings and will mask RLOs issued for secondary charges. By contrast the G4S figures count all RLOs issued by the courts relating to all charges.
Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTOs) are designed to reduce or stop offending by addressing problem drug use through the provision or access to a closely monitored treatment programme. The number of DTTOs dropped by 8 per cent from 528 in 2014-15 to 486 in 2015-16. This is the seventh consecutive annual decline with levels 45 per cent lower than in 2008-09 (885 DTTOs).
Community sentences are available for courts to use in any case where the offence is punishable by imprisonment. In 2015-16 the crimes/offences with the highest proportion of community sentences were for:
- Other sexual crimes - 438 people or 64 per cent of court disposals;
- Other non-sexual crimes of violence - 102 people or 54 per cent; and
- Sexual assault- 140 people or 50 per cent.
12. Financial penalties and other sentences
The courts can impose fines, which are paid to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS), or compensation orders, which are paid to the victim.
The number of financial penalties has been in general decline over the last ten years, dropping from 84,820 in 2006-07, when they accounted for 63 per cent of all disposals. Numbers of financial penalties have declined in the latest year, down by 12 per cent from 56,792 in 2014-15. The decline relates to the fall in motor vehicle offences, which are more likely to be given financial penalties (92 per cent received a financial penalty in 2015-16).
The median fine imposed by courts on individuals (excluding companies) in 2015-16 was £200, in cash terms. The median fine has increased by a third over the last 10 years, up from £150 in 2006-07.
The use of compensation orders as a main penalty declined by 8 per cent to 771 in the year to 2015-16. The median value for compensation orders has risen at the same rate as for fines, up from £150 in 2006-07 to £200 in 2015-16. Please note compensation orders can be given as an additional punishment to a single offence and hence the median is based on either the main or secondary penalty for specific offences.
"Other sentences" are mostly admonishments (a verbal warning from the sheriff). In 2015-16, 16,496 people were admonished, which represented 17 per cent of all convictions. In 2015-16 the crimes for which admonishments were most frequently given were:
- Prostitution offences with 48 per cent of all convictions being admonishments (41 convictions);
- Drunkenness and other disorderly conduct with 43 per cent (70 convictions); and
- Crimes against public justice with 31 per cent (3,165 convictions).
Aggravator codes can be recorded on the Criminal History System (CHS) to provide additional information relating to the nature of a charge. For example, someone who commits an assault which is motivated by malice towards the victim as a result of their religion might have their offence recorded under "common assault" with an aggravator code of "religious" hatred.
This publication includes statistics on a subset of the full set of aggravator codes on the CHS. The set of aggravators published covers disability, racial, religious, sexual orientation and transgender. These are 'statutory aggravators' as they are covered by legislation, as outlined in Annex C. In addition, information is published on domestic abuse cases, which are recorded on the CHS using the "domestic" aggravator code to highlight particular cases to the police, COPFS or SCTS.
Please note that in 2017 the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 will come into force, which will allow for an offence to be aggravated by domestic abuse. Specific legislation for offences aggravated by domestic abuse was therefore not in place for the time span of these statistics but due to the level of interest we have presented them along with the five aggravators covered by legislation.
Please note that statistics on bail aggravators, which identify offences that were committed while the offender was on bail, are not included in this publication but are available for download from the "Additional data" page.
Changes to aggravator statistics
There have been some changes made to the aggravator statistics this year. Firstly, to be consistent with the headline figures, aggravator information now shows the number of people convicted with an aggravator recorded, based on the main charge in a proceeding. In previous years aggravator statistics related to all charges included in a proceeding, unlike the other statistics included in this bulletin which are based on the main charge in a proceeding. This means that the statistics relating to aggravators will be lower than in the previous publication (see Annex B for the scale of revision). A breakdown by gender has also been made available due to an interest in more detailed breakdowns in this area.
Whilst we have provided this additional breakdown we have reduced the number of aggravator types included due to concerns around data quality. The information dropped includes aggravation by breaching an order (such as harassment orders or an antisocial behaviour orders) and other aggravator codes such as "sexual" or "offence against a child". Further investigation is required to establish whether the recording of these codes on the CHS is of a high enough standard to warrant publication for 2016-17.
Statistics on aggravators
Please be aware that a single proceeding can have more than one aggravator recorded against it e.g. domestic" and "disability". In this case the same proceeding would be counted twice in the aggravator tables but once in the main court tables.
The most common aggravator type in 2015-16 was for "domestic" abuse with 12,374 convictions, a 1 per cent decrease from 2014-15 (12,440 convictions). This represents a stabilisation following four consecutive annual increases with levels now 44 per cent higher than in 2010-11 (8,566 convictions). The longer term increase has been driven by an increase in breach of the peace convictions, particularly offences of "threatening or abusive behaviour" or stalking.
The increase since 2010-11 may be reflective of a strengthened emphasis on tackling domestic abuse in Scotland by both Police Scotland and the COPFS. Please note that the increase does not necessarily mean that domestic abuse is occurring at a greater level than in previous years but may be due, in part, to increases in reporting these types of crimes and improvements in the recording of domestic abuse cases on the CHS.
In 2015-16 the vast majority of people convicted of an offence with a domestic abuse aggravator recorded were male (10,741 convictions or 87 per cent). This proportion has declined by 6 percentage points since 2006-7 when the proportion of males convicted with a domestic abuse aggravator recorded stood at 93 per cent.
In 2015-16 the most common crime types with a domestic abuse aggravator recorded against a conviction were for:
- Breach of the peace, which made up 44 per cent of domestic abuse convictions (5,421 convictions). The vast majority of these (97 per cent or 5,250 convictions) were for offences of "threatening or abusive behaviour" or stalking.
- Common assault (30 per cent or 3,687 convictions); and
- Crimes against public justice (16 per cent or 1,941 convictions).
After the domestic abuse aggravator, the next most common types of aggravators recorded in 2015-16 were:
- Racial (761 convictions);
- Sexual orientation (368 convictions); and
- Religious (245 convictions).
Convictions for these aggravators have also risen since 2010-11 although caution should be taken for increases soon after the legislation is introduced. For example recording of the sexual orientation and disability aggravators have increased markedly since 2010-11 following their introduction through the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009.
14. Age and Gender
In 2015-16 there were 20 convictions per 1,000 members of the population (1 in every 50 people). The rate for males was higher at 35 convictions per 1,000 population compared to 7 for females.
The overall conviction rate has declined over the last ten years from 29 convictions per 1,000 population in 2006-07. The rate dropped to 22 convictions per 1,000 by 2011-12 and has since broadly stabilised albeit dropping by 2 convictions per 1,000 population in the latest year, down to 20. The decline has been driven by a decrease for males, down to 35 convictions per 1,000 population in 2015-16 from 50 in 2006-07. The rate for females has remained stable over the ten years, ranging between 7 and 8 convictions per 1,000 population.
Chart 11: Convictions per 1,000 population by gender, 2006-07 to 2015-16
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 number of convictions per 1,000 population for younger people, whilst the rate for older people (aged 31 or above) has remained relatively stable.
In 2006-07 the age with the highest conviction rate was for those aged 18-20 at 100 convictions per 1,000 population. Since 2006-07 the age with the highest conviction rate has shifted upwards. The highest conviction rate was for those aged 21-30 in 2015-16 and stood at 45 convictions per 1,000 population. Conviction rates by age follow similar trends for both males and females.
Convictions by gender/age and crime type
Males accounted for 83 per cent of all convictions in 2015-16 (where the gender was known), unchanged from 2014-15. More males than females were convicted in all crime/offence categories except for offences associated with prostitution (63% of all convictions were for females).
Whilst females accounted for 17 per cent of all convictions they accounted for higher proportions of convictions for the following crime types in 2015-16:
- 46 per cent of other non-sexual crimes of violence. The vast majority of these were for "cruelty to and unnatural treatment of children" convictions;
- 33 per cent of all fraud convictions; and
- 28 per cent of all shoplifting convictions.
A larger proportion of convictions for people under 21 are for crimes of public justice and common assault than the proportion for older people. For example a quarter (25 per cent) of females under 21 convictions were for common assault with the corresponding figure for males being 15 per cent. By contrast common assault accounted for smaller proportions of convictions for both men and women aged over 40 (9 and 12 per cent for males and females respectively).
Convictions for motor vehicle offences accounted for higher proportions of convictions for those aged over 40; 43 per cent of males convicted and 41 per cent of females convicted. This compares to the under 21-age group where 18 and 16 per cent of males and females convicted were done so for motor vehicle offences respectively.
Sentencing by gender and age
Chart 12: Total Convictions and Disposal Type by gender, 2015-16
Males are more likely to receive a custodial sentence than females. This is illustrated by males accounting for 83 per cent of all people convicted in 2015-16 but representing a higher proportion of all custodial sentences (91 per cent). By contrast females accounted for 17 per cent of people convicted compared to a lower proportion for custodial sentences (9 per cent of custodial sentences). Females were more likely to be issued with an "Other sentence" with 28 per cent of these types of punishments been given to females compared to the 17 per cent of all convictions that females represent. "Other sentences" are mostly admonishments i.e. a verbal warning from the sheriff.
Please note that sentencing decisions are reflective of a number of factors such as the severity of the crime and whether the individual has offended in the past. In addition, the decision on what type of punishment is reasonable will be based on the personal circumstances of the offender. These statistics do not take account of these factors.
Chart 13: Change in number of disposals by age and gender, 2006-07 to 2015-16
Table 12 illustrates different patterns by age and gender over the last ten years. Chart 13 above summarises the main changes between 2006-07 and 2015-16. In summary it shows that:
- Financial penalties are the only disposal types where the trend is in decline for all age-gender groups, with the largest decreases being for the under 21 year olds for both genders;
- With respect to custodial and community sentences there have been decreases in numbers for those aged "under 21" and "21-30" for both genders with the exception of community sentences for those aged 21-30. These have increased by 14 per cent for males and 4 per cent for females over the ten year period;
- The largest increases have been for those aged over 40, particularly those receiving community sentences. The number of community sentences for females over 40 has increased by 150 per cent since 2006-07 whilst for males the rise has been 114 per cent; and
- There have also been considerable rises in the number of females aged 31-40 and over 40 receiving custodial sentences, up 78 per cent and 103 per cent respectively.
15. Police Disposals
This section outlines detail on some of the measures available to the police for dealing with minor offences rather than referring individuals to the COPFS and therefore potentially to court. Statistics are presented on Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notices (ASBFPNs), Formal Adult Warnings and actions used specifically for juveniles (aged 8 to 17) such as restorative justice warnings and Early and Effective Interventions (EEI). In addition, on 11th January 2016, Recorded Police Warnings were introduced to deal with low level offences and have replaced Formal Adult Warnings.
ASBFPNs make around three quarters of the police disposals presented in this publication. It is important to note, however, that there are other types of police measures not included such as fixed penalty notices for moving motor vehicle offences and other youth justice measures. A more detailed listing of the disposals available in this publication can be seen in Annex D.
Chart 14: Police disposals by type in 2015-16
Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notices
Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notices (ASBFPNs) allow the police to issue offenders a £40 fine for a range of offences including drunken-related behaviours and playing loud music. In 2015-16, 29,360 people received an ASBFPN as a main penalty, a decrease of 32 per cent from 42,956 in 2014-15. Levels continue to decrease for the second year in a row after a period of relative stability between 2010-11 and 2013-14 (ranging between 53,674 to 55,562 ASBFPNs per annum). It is thought that some of the decline may be due to Police Scotland issuing revised guidance around the use of ASBFPNs.
Chart 15: Most common offences for Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notices (ASBFPNs), 2015-16
In 2015-16 the vast majority of ASBFPNs were issued for three offence types:
- 10,832 for breach of the peace (37 per cent); and
- 10,491 for consuming alcohol in a public place (36 per cent of total);
- 6,391 for urinating etc. in circumstances causing annoyance to others (22 per cent).
Males received 85 per cent of all ASBFPNs in 2015-16 (24,856 people) with the most common offences being for consuming alcohol in a public place (36 per cent of ASBFPNs issued to males) followed by breach of the peace, etc (34 per cent). ASBFPNs issued to females (4,503 people in total) were primarily issued for breach of the peace (51 per cent of ASBFPNs to females) and consuming alcohol in a public place (37 per cent).
Formal Adult Warnings and Recorded Police Warnings
Recorded Police Warnings (RPWs) were introduced in January 2016 to replace the Formal Adult Warnings (FAW) system. They will address minor offending behaviour which was previously reported to COPFS and previously resulted in either a non-court disposal or no action being taken due to the minor nature of the offence and circumstances. There were 4,074 RPWs issued during January to March 2016.
Prior to the introduction of RPWs, FAWs were given to 3,355 people in 2015-16. This is 29 per cent less than the 4,756 given out in 2014-15, the difference being a direct result of FAWs being phased out over the course of 2015-16.
Chart 16: Most common offences for Formal Adult Warnings, 2015-16
With respect to FAWs three quarters of the people in 2015-16 received them for four crimes/offences:
- Shoplifting (27 per cent or 898);
- Breach of the peace etc. (17 per cent or 566);
- Common Assault (16 per cent or 532); and
- Drunkenness and other disorderly conduct (13 per cent or 443).
In 2015-16, 59 per cent of people given FAWs as a main penalty were male (1,987 people in 2015-16), a lower proportion in comparison to the 85 per cent of all ASBFPNs given to males. Around one in five males issued FAWs in 2015-16 (8 per cent) were given them for drunkenness (359 people). Proportions differ by age with one quarter (24 per cent) of males issued a FAW in the over 40 age group receiving them for drunkenness and other disorderly conduct, compared to 3 per cent of under 21s.
In 2015-16 over two fifths of FAWs (42%) issued to women were for shoplifting (576 people). Proportions differed by age with just over half (51 per cent) of females issued a FAW in the over 41 age group receiving them for shoplifting, compared to around a quarter (26 per cent) for under 21s. A further third of females issued FAWs were given the penalty for either common assault (227 people) or breach of the peace (220 people).
Police disposals for Young people involved in offending
This section provides statistics on some of the police disposals that specifically target young people, under the age of 18, involved in offending. The disposals we have information for are Early and Effective Interventions (EEIs) and Restorative Justice Warnings as recorded on the Criminal History System (CHS). Please note that, following discussion with Police Scotland, there have been revisions made to our EEI statistics this year. See below and Annex B for more detail.
Please note that these statistics are not a full measure of disposals for under 18s as there are a number of other measures managed by the police and other public bodies that we cannot quantify levels for. This is due to the complex nature of how young people involved in offending are dealt with by different organisations and therefore information is captured in different ways on disparate databases.
There are a number of routes for dealing with young people who have offended in Scotland as follows:
- Depending on their age and the nature of the offence some young people who have offended move through the Criminal Justice System in the same way as adults i.e. they are issued a disposal by the police, COPFS or the adult courts. This tends to happen for young people accused of more serious crimes with activity for these cases included within the statistics elsewhere in the report. No one under the age of 12 can be prosecuted in the adult courts in Scotland.
- Other young people are referred to the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA), which manages the children's hearing system. This is a needs based system, including responding to occasions when children offend, rather than exposing them to the adult courts, which can be a damaging experience.
- Increasingly the Whole System Approach (WSA) is used to deal with young people aged 8 to 17. This approach was rolled out across Scotland in 2011 to encourage partners to change offending behaviour by young people and to reduce the number of young people entering the adult criminal justice system. One approach used by the police to respond to the needs of children who offend is consideration for Early and Effective Intervention (EEI), which was introduced following the preventing offending framework in 2008. Early and Effective Intervention is a multi-agency response to low level offending, typically offences of a less serious nature, which might previously have automatically resulted in referral to the Children's Reporter. The EEI process runs differently in each Local Authority and the involvement of the Police can be different in each Local Authority. For these reasons, the statistics presented here should be seen as a minimum indication of EEI activity.
- The focus of EEIs is to respond as quickly as possible to offending behaviour by children and young people and to put in place appropriate support with the aim of reducing the likelihood of reoffending. Practices vary by local authority with a range of agencies (police, education, social work and the third sector) being involved.
Trends in Police Disposals for Young People
In terms of police disposals specifically aimed at young people involved in offending, restorative justice warnings have been in decline from 2,479 people in 2008-09 to 374 people in 2015-16. There was a rise in numbers in the year to 2015-16 up from 220 in 2014-15 but levels are still much lower than in 2008-09.
By contrast the number of young people referred for EEI increased steadily since their introduction in 2008-09 rising to 2,588 people by 2011-12. In the three years between 2011-12 and 2014-15 numbers doubled to 5,222 people as the use of these practices became more commonplace. Between 2014-15 and 2015-16 numbers increased by a quarter (25 per cent) to 6,551.
Since the last publication it was identified that the EEI statistics were underestimated as not all codes used to record them on the CHS were picked up. As EEI practices vary greatly by local authority, different areas use a different combination of codes. After consultation with Police Scotland, we have included two more CHS codes and it is felt that by including these we are now providing a fuller (but not yet complete) measure of EEI activity. See Annex B for more detail.
16. Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Disposals
When a report is submitted by the police to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (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 fine or a diversion from prosecution.
Of the COPFS disposals included in this publication, in 2015-16 around 71 per cent were fiscal fines (34,389 people) with a further 22 per cent being fiscal fixed penalties (10,740). 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 Work Orders (FWOs) were introduced across Scotland in April 2015 and provide COPFS with the option of offering an alleged offender a period of unpaid work of between 10 and 50 hours, as an alternative to prosecution. Successful completion of the order discharges the right to prosecute. We have been unable to derive statistics for this year's Criminal Proceedings bulletin due to uncertainty around what stage information relating to the FWO is captured on the Criminal History System. We will investigate the process of recording these disposals in the coming year with the hope of publishing FWO statistics in the 2016-17 report.
Chart 17: COPFS Disposals by type, 2015-16
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 2015-16 there were 34,389 people issued a fiscal fine as a main penalty, a decline of 5 per cent from 36,191 in 2014-15, a decline in line with the rate of fall in court proceedings. This is the second annual decline following a period of three years where the number of fiscal fines exceeded 42,000 (between 2011-12 to 2013-14). Fiscal fines were most commonly issued for the following crimes:
- Thirty-one per cent were for Drugs (10,683 fines);
- Twenty-three per cent were for Communications Act offences (mainly TV licensing), which totalled 7,965 fines; and
- Sixteen per cent were for Unlawful use of vehicle (5,655 fines).
Nearly seven in ten (68 per cent) of all fiscal fines in 2015-16 were issued to males (23,307 fines). The most noticeable differences for males and females for which fiscal fines were issued are presented in chart 18. For example 41 per cent of fiscal fines issued to males were for drugs offences compared to 11 per cent for females and 31 per cent overall.
Chart 18: 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 2015-16, 10,740 COFPs were issued to people as a main penalty, a decrease of 31 per cent from 15,480 in 2014-15. This is the second annual decline with the number issued being less than half the level in 2013-14 (23,494 COFPs). This is related to a fall in the number of Road Traffic offences reported by the Police.
The decrease was driven by a fall in penalties for:
- "Other motor vehicle offences" (including mobile phone offences and seatbelt offences) down 65 per cent to 1,390 from 4,003 in 2014-15; and
- Documentation offences, down 50 per cent to 1,433.
Chart 19: Most common offences for Fiscal Fixed Penalties, 2015-16
The most common crime COFPs were awarded for in 2015-16 was for speeding offences (5,540 penalties), which made up over half (52 per cent). After this the three following crime types accounted for a further 13 per cent each:
- Documentation offences (such as using a vehicle without a test certificate, without a licence or failure to insure), totalling 1,433;
- Signal and direction offences, totalling 1,425 penalties; and
- "Other motor vehicle offences", which includes mobile phone and seatbelt offences, totalling 1,390 penalties.
In 2015-16, more than three quarters (78 per cent or 8,379) of COFPs were issued to males and over a third (36 per cent or 3,822) of all COFPs were issued to males aged over 40.
Where a person has been arrested or charged by the police, the police may decide to remand the person in custody. The police will submit a report to the COPFS in respect of the person remanded and where the COPFS decide that he or she is to be prosecuted, they will appear at court on the first lawful day after they were taken into police custody. At this point the accused may apply for bail and the sheriff or judge will decide whether the accused should be released on bail until they next need to appear in court for later stages of the proceedings.
In some circumstances, generally for less serious crimes, the police may decide to release the individual on an undertaking. This means the accused will have their initial appearance in court at a later date.
Please note that four additional tables on bail are available for download from the "Additional data" page. These include bail statistics by court type as well as age and gender. One of the tables presents bail aggravators i.e. offences that were committed while the offender was on bail.
Bail orders made, and by main crime type
The number of bail orders decreased by 3 per cent from 46,560 in 2014-15 to 45,346 in 2015-16. Over the longer term numbers have fallen by 27 per cent since a peak of 62,294 bail orders in 2006-07. This is consistent with the longer term trends in volumes of cases coming to court.
In the year to 2015-16 there was also a decrease in the number of bail orders issued for Handling offensive weapons (down 15 per cent to 1,243) and continues the long term decline since 2009-10 (2,189 bail orders). There was also a relatively large decrease in bail orders issued for sexual crimes down 8 per cent from 1,497 in 2014-15 to 1,372 in 2015-16.
In contrast there were annual increases in the numbers of bail orders issued for non-sexual crimes of violence (up 6 per cent to 2,645) and drug offences (up 3 per cent to 2,647).
Since 2006-07 there have been some large changes in the relative proportions of bail orders issued for each crime group, however these have remained relatively stable since 2009-10. The more substantial changes seen over the last ten years include:
- Bail orders issued for crimes of dishonesty accounted for a fifth (20 per cent) of all bail orders issued in 2006-07 falling by six percentage points to 14 per cent in 2015-16;
- Common assault accounted for 19 per cent of all bail orders issued in 2015-16. This figure has increased by three percentage points from 16 per cent in 2006-07; and
- Breach of the peace - accounted for 16 per cent of bail orders in 2015-16, also increasing four percentage points from 12 per cent in 2006-07.
Bail-related offences cover the offences of breach of bail conditions (e.g. interfering with a witness) and failure to appear in court after being granted bail. A total of 8,563 bail-related offences had a charge proved in 2015-16, broadly stable with 2014-15 (8,548).
The proportion of bail-related offences as a percentage of all bail orders granted in 2015-16 was 19 per cent. This has remained fairly constant for the six years from 2008-09 but is 7 percentage points higher than in 2006-07 (12 per cent).
Previously published statistics on police undertakings were not released last year due to concerns around data quality. This was because there was a decrease of 24 per cent in the number of undertakings in the year to 2014-15 and we did not want to publish without assurance that the decline was not a result of a data issue. Over the last year we have investigated the issue with Police Scotland and have validated our trends in undertakings with other data sources. We now have confidence that the data are robust and have included statistics on them at table 16.
In 2015-16 there were 15,641 undertakings to appear in court, a fall of 7 per cent from 2014-15 (16,757 undertakings). This follows a sizeable fall in 2014-15 of 24 per cent down from 22,110 in 2013-14. Three quarters of undertakings were issued to males in 2015-16 (11,769 people) a proportion that has been in decline since 2009-10 when they represented 79 per cent of all undertakings. The proportion of young people being issued with an undertaking has been in decline with 16 per cent of undertakings for under 21 year olds in 2015-16 compared to 25 per cent in 2009-10.