16. Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Disposals
( Tables 19-22)
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. The 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, the 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 2016-17 around 65% were fiscal fines (21,798 people) with a further 25% being fiscal fixed penalties (8,429). The remainder were made up of compensation orders, where the accused pays a prescribed sum of money to court and it is then remitted to the victim, and combined offers which comprise a fine and a compensation element. 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 the 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 2017-18 report.
Chart 16: COPFS Disposals by type, 2016-17
Fiscal fines of between £50 and £300 can be offered to the alleged offender by the COPFS as an alternative to prosecution. Where a fiscal fine is accepted, the accused cannot be prosecuted, but if the fine is unpaid, it can be enforced through the courts. If the fine is actively rejected, prosecution for the original offence will normally follow.
In 2016-17 there were 21,798 people issued a fiscal fine as a main penalty, a decline of 37% from 34,395 in 2015-16, a fall much greater than the decline in the number of proceedings. This partly reflects a fall in the number of criminal reports submitted to the COPFS. Where appropriate, the police can issue a Recorded Police Warning where someone might previously have been reported to the COPFS. This is the third 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:
- 25% were for Unlawful use of vehicle (5,348 fines);
- 23% were for Drugs (4,963 fines); and
- 22% were for Communications Act offences (mainly TV licensing), which totalled 4,799 fines.
Two-thirds (66%) of all fiscal fines in 2016-17 were issued to males (14,467 fines). The most noticeable differences for males and females for which fiscal fines were issued are presented in Chart 17. For example 30% of fiscal fines issued to males were for drugs offences compared to nine per cent for females and 23% overall.
Chart 17: Fiscal fines, percentage issued by crime type and gender
Fiscal fixed penalties
Crown Office Fixed Penalties ( COFPs) are generally issued for certain road traffic/motor vehicle offences and can involve a fine or a fine and points. The amount of the fine is prescribed by law. In 2016-17, 8,429 COFPs were issued to people as a main penalty, a decrease of 22% from 10,745 in 2015-16. This is the third annual decline, with the number issued now being only 36% of 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:
- "Signal and direction offences" down 29% to 1,013 from 1,425; and
- "Speeding offences" down 28% to 4,004 from 5,541; and
- "Other motor vehicle offences" (including mobile phone offences and seatbelt offences) down 28% to 1,007 from 1,391.
Chart 18: Most common offences for Fiscal Fixed Penalties, 2016-17
The most common crime COFPs were issued for in 2016-17 was for speeding offences (4,004 penalties), which made up almost half (48%). After this COFPs were most commonly issued for the following crimes:
- 20% were for Documentation offences (such as using a vehicle without a test certificate, without a licence or failure to insure), totalling 1,692;
- 12% were for Signal and direction offences, totalling 1,013 penalties; and
- 12% were for "Other motor vehicle offences", which includes mobile phone and seatbelt offences, totalling 1,007 penalties.
In 2016-17, more than three-quarters (77% or 6,508) of COFPs were issued to males and over a third (34% or 2,872) of all COFPs were issued to males aged over 40.