Criminal proceedings in Scotland 2017-2018

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.

This document is part of a collection

Key points

Court proceedings and convictions

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

  • A total of 95,254 people were proceeded against in court in 2017-18, a fall of 11% on 2016-17 (107,362 proceedings). The number of convictions fell at a similar rate, down 10% to 82,716 from 2016-17 (92,347). This reflects the nine per cent fall in the number of criminal reports received by COPFS.
  • 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 remained relatively stable over the last ten years, currently down slightly by two percentage points from 89% in 2008-09 to 87% in 2017-18. They have risen by one percentage point since 2016-17.
  • The number of convictions for rape and attempted rape is close to three times the amount in 2010-11 (36 convictions), and increased by eight per cent in 2017-18 to 107, compared to 99 in 2016-17. This is in contrast to the number of proceedings for these crimes decreasing by two per cent from 251 in 2016-17 to 247 proceedings in 2017-18. The number of convictions in 2017-18 is almost three times as many as in 2010-11, the year with the lowest number of convictions in the 10 year period.
  • Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence increased by five per cent in 2017-18 to 1,812, compared to 1,724 in 2016-17. The number of convictions for homicide increased by 13 to 90 convictions, although, as can be seen in the latest published homicide statistics, given that more than one person can be convicted of homicide involving a single victim, this doesn’t necessarily mean that more people have been killed this year. The number of attempted murder and serious assault convictions increased by five per cent to 1,168, with convictions for robbery increasing by nine per cent to 404, the highest since 2013-14. Other non-sexual crimes of violence fell by seven per cent to the lowest level in the last ten years (150 convictions).
  • Convictions for crimes of dishonesty dropped by nine per cent in 2017-18, down to 9,801 convictions from 10,809 in 2016-17. This continues the decline of the last ten years with convictions now 44% lower than in 2008-09 (17,429).

Court sentences

(Tables 7 to 10)

  • The total number of convictions fell by 10%, whilst those resulting in a custodial sentence fell at a slower rate, down six per cent in 2017-18 (from 12,705 in 2016-17 to 11,973). Custodial sentences represented 14% of all convictions in 2017-18, a proportion that has remained relatively stable since 2008-09.
  • The average length of custodial sentence for all crimes, excluding life sentences, in 2017-18 was around ten and a half months (318 days), which is four days (one per cent) longer than in 2016-17 (314 days). This continues the long-term upward trend in sentence length, with the average sentence length now 21% longer than in 2008/09 (263 days).
  • The crime type with the longest average sentences (excluding life sentences) in 2017-18 was rape and attempted rape, which increased by three per cent to 2,567 from 2,502 days in 2016-17.
  • Sentences of 3 to 6 months have been the most predominant sentence length since 2011-12, accounting for 36% of all custodial sentences in 2017-18. Prior to 2011-12 sentences of up to 3 months were the most common custodial sentence, dropping from 41 per cent in 2008-09 to 27% in 2017-18.
  • Twenty per cent (16,830) of all convictions in 2017-18 resulted in a main penalty of a community sentence, accounting for a higher proportion than ten years ago, up six percentage points from 14% in 2008-09.
  • In 2017-18 there was a 10% fall in the number of community sentences, down from 18,646 in 2016-17.
  • There has been a 15% reduction in the number of Community Payback Orders, from 15,979 in 2016-17 to 13,601 in 2017-18. At the same time, use of other types of community sentences has increased. There has been a 22% increase in the use of Restriction of Liberty Orders, from 2,204 to 2,691 and the number of DTTOs rose by 24%, from 418 in 2016-17 to 518 in 2017-18.

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 26 in 2008-09 to 17 in 2017-18. This fall has been driven by a decline for males, down to 28 convictions per 1,000 population in 2017-18 from 46 in 2008-09. The rate for females has also declined over the ten year period although much more gradually, from eight convictions per 1,000 population in 2008-09 to six in 2017-18.
  • Over the past 10 years the number of convictions per 1,000 population for younger people (under-21s and 21-30s) has fallen much more quickly than the numbers for older people, although they are falling in all groups.
  • Whilst the total number of convictions for almost all age and gender groups has fallen compared to 2016-17, there has been a relatively large rise in custodial sentences for women aged 31-40, from 378 in 2016-17 to 496 in 2017-18, this in a group where the number of proceedings has fallen by five per cent since 2016-17.


(Tables 12 and 13)

  • There were 9,782 convictions with a domestic abuse identifier recorded, a 10% decrease from 2016-17 (10,836 convictions). This is third consecutive fall following four consecutive annual increases, although levels are still 14% higher than in 2010-11 (8,566 convictions). The statutory domestic abuse aggravator was introduced in 2017-18, and was recorded in 4,253 convictions (43% of all cases with a domestic abuse identifier).


(Tables 14, 15 and 16)

  • The number of bail orders decreased by 13% from 42,277 in 2016-17 to 36,853 in 2017-18. Over the last decade, numbers have fallen by 30%, down from 52,593 bail orders in 2008-09. This is consistent with the longer term trends in volumes of cases coming to court.
  • There were 6,940 bail-related offences in 2017-18 (e.g. breach of bail conditions, such as failure to appear in court after being granted bail), a 10% fall compared to 2016-17 (7,702 bail related offences). Less than one in five bail orders result in a bail-related offence. This is around the same as last year and is two percentage points higher than in 2008-09 (17%).
  • In 2017-18 there were 17,644 undertakings to appear in court, an increase of 22% from the number in 2016-17 (14,442 undertakings). This is the first increase since 2010-11, although total numbers remain 35% below the peak of 27,297 undertakings issued in that year.

Police disposals (Tables 17 to 18)

  • In 2017-18, 11,008 people received an Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notice (ASBFPN) as a main penalty, a fall of 28% from 15,384 in 2016-17. It is thought that some of the ongoing decline may be due to Police Scotland issuing revised guidance around the use of ASBFPNs.
  • There were 17,291 Recorded Police Warnings issued during 2017-18, a fall of 12% from 19,672 in 2016-17, the first full year of their use. RPWs were introduced in January 2016 to replace and extend the Formal Adult Warnings (FAW) system, and their use has become one of the standard ways of dealing with low levels of offending behaviour.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (Tables 19 to 22)

  • In 2017-18 22,686 people were issued a fiscal fine as a main penalty, an increase of four per cent from 21,823 in 2016-17, and the first annual increase since 2012-13.
  • In 2017-18, 6,544 Crown Office Fixed Penalty Notices (COFP) were issued to people as a main penalty, a decrease of 22% from 8,430 in 2016-17. This is the fourth annual decline with the number issued being close to a quarter of the level in 2013-14 (23,487 COFPs).


Email: Ian Volante

Back to top