Criminal proceedings in Scotland 2016-17: statistics

Statistics on criminal proceedings concluded in Scottish courts and alternatives to prosecution, issued by the police and by the Crown Office.

This document is part of a collection

Key points

Court proceedings and convictions

( Tables 1, 2, 3 and 4a-c)

  • A total of 107,338 people were proceeded against in court in 2016-17, a fall of eight per cent on 2015-16 (116,833 proceedings). The number of convictions fell at a similar rate, down eight per cent to 92,334 from 2015-16 (99,962).
  • This continues the general downward trend of the last ten years and is in contrast to the rises in court activity seen between 2012-13 and 2014-15. Conviction rates have also declined over the last ten years, down four percentage points from 90% in 2007-08 to 86% in 2016-17.
  • The fall in convictions in the last year has been driven by a fall in speeding offence convictions (down 14% to 10,684 convictions in 2016-17), crimes against public justice convictions (down 11% to 9,022 convictions in 2016-17) and common assault convictions (down seven per cent to 11,243 convictions in 2016-17), although there are falls in the number of convictions in almost every category.
  • The number of convictions for sexual crimes declined by 11% in 2016-17 to 1,037 convictions. This follows five consecutive annual rises, although convictions in 2016-17 are still 37% higher than in 2010-11 (756 convictions). The rise since 2010-11, in part, likely 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.
  • The number of convictions for rape and attempted rape is more than double the amount in 2010-11 (36 convictions), although this declined by seven per cent in 2016-17 to 98. This is in contrast to the number of proceedings for these crimes increasing by 16% from 216 in 2015-16 to 251 proceedings in 2016-17.
  • Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence fell by three per cent in 2016-17 to 1,722, compared to 1,776 in 2015-16. The number of convictions for homicide fell by seven to 77. The number of attempted murder and serious assault convictions remained almost unchanged at 1,110, with levels for robbery and other non-sexual crimes of violence falling to the lowest levels in the last ten years (372 and 163 convictions respectively).
  • Convictions for crimes of dishonesty declined by seven per cent in 2016-17, down to 10,795 convictions from 11,605 in 2015-16. This continues the decline of the last ten years with convictions now 39% lower than in 2007-08 (17,728).

Court sentences

( Tables 7 to 10)

  • The total number of convictions fell by eight per cent, those resulting in a custodial sentence fell at a similar rate, down eight per cent in 2016-17 (from 13,766 in 2015-16 to 12,690). Custodial sentences represented 14% of all convictions in 2016-17, a proportion that has remained relatively stable since 2007-08, fluctuating between 13 and 15%.
  • The average length of custodial sentence for all crimes, excluding life sentences, in 2016-17 was around 10 months (313 days), which is 20 days (seven per cent) longer than in 2015-16 (293 days). Over the longer term, some fluctuations aside, there has been a general upward trend in sentence length, and they are now 26% longer than in 2007/08 (249 days).
  • The number of financial penalties has been in general decline over the last ten years, dropping from 83,344 in 2007-08, when they accounted for 62% of all disposals to 44,999 in 2016-17 (49%). This year's decline of 10% relates to the fall in motor vehicle offences, which are more likely to be given financial penalties (90% received a financial penalty in 2016-17).
  • The crime type with the longest average sentences (excluding life sentences) in 2016-17 was rape and attempted rape, which reached 2,572 days in 2015-16, and has declined by four per cent to 2,462 days in 2016-17.
  • Sentences of 3 to 6 months have made up the most predominant sentence length since 2010-11 and stood at 35% of all custodial sentences in 2016-17. Prior to 2011-12 sentences of up to 3 months were the most common custodial sentence, dropping from 50 per cent in 2007-08 to 28% in 2016-17.
  • Twenty per cent (18,600) of all convictions in 2016-17 resulted in a main penalty of a community sentence, accounting for a higher proportion than ten years ago, up almost eight percentage points from 13% in 2007-08. In 2016-17 there was a two per cent fall in the number of community sentences, down from 18,949 in 2015-16.
  • Community payback orders ( CPO) make up the vast majority of community sentences (86% or 15,918). This is a fall of five per cent from 2015-16 from 16,763, where these sentences made up 88% of community sentences. At the same time, there has been a 34% increase in the use of Restriction of Liberty Orders, from 1,643 to 2,200.

Characteristics of offenders

( Tables 5, 6, 8c, 10b, and 11)

  • The number of convictions per 1,000 population has declined over the last ten years from 28 in 2007-08 to 19 in 2016-17. This fall has been largely driven by a decline for males, down to 32 convictions per 1,000 population in 2016-17 from 50 in 2007-08. The rate for females has also declined slightly over the ten years although at a much less extreme rate, from eight convictions per 1,000 population in 2007-08 to six in 2016-17.
  • 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.
  • Patterns in the types of disposals most frequently issued differ by age and gender over the last ten years. Whilst the number of convictions for almost all age and gender groups has fallen compared to 2015-16, there has been a small rise in "other sentences" for women aged 31-40.


( Tables 12 and 13)

  • There were 10,830 convictions with a domestic abuse aggravator recorded, a 12% decrease from 2015-16 (12,376 convictions). This is a relatively large fall following four consecutive annual increases and a small decrease in 2015-16, although levels are still 26% higher than in 2010-11 (8,566 convictions).


( Tables 14, 15 and 16)

  • The number of bail orders decreased by three per cent from 45,346 in 2015-16 to 42,277 in 2016-17. Over the last decade, numbers have fallen by 30%, down from 60,362 bail orders in 2007-08. This is consistent with the longer term trends in volumes of cases coming to court.
  • There were 7,671 bail-related offences in 2016-17 ( e.g. breach of bail conditions, such as failure to appear in court after being granted bail), an 11% fall compared to 2015-16 (8,589 bail related offences). Less than one in five bail orders result in a bail-related offence. This is around the same as last year but five percentage points higher than in 2007-08 (13%).
  • In 2016-17 there were 14,442 undertakings to appear in court, a fall of eight per cent from the number in 2015-16 (15,641 undertakings). This continues the declining trend since 2010-11.

Police disposals

( Tables 17 to 18)

  • In 2016-17, 15,363 people received an Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notice ( ASBFPN) as a main penalty, a fall of 48% from 29,368 in 2015-16. It is thought that some of the decline may be due to Police Scotland issuing revised guidance around the use of ASBFPNs.
  • Recorded Police Warnings ( RPWs) were introduced in January 2016 to replace and extend the Formal Adult Warnings ( FAW) system. There were 19,596 RPWs issued during 2016-17, following the issue of 4,231 in the last quarter of 2015-16.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

( Tables 19 to 22)

  • In 2016-17 21,798 people were issued a fiscal fine as a main penalty, a decline of 37% from 34,395 in 2015-16. This large fall is the fourth annual decline in the numbers of fiscal fines being issued by the COPFS. This partly reflects a fall in the number of criminal reports submitted to COPFS. Where appropriate, the police can issue a Recorded Police Warning where someone might previously have been reported to COPFS.
  • In 2016-17, 8,429 Crown Office Fixed Penalty Notices ( COFP) 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 being close to a third of the level in 2013-14 (23,494 COFPs).


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