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.

Annex D - Definitions, Classifications and Notation

D.1 The measures available to a court in sentencing a convicted person depend on a number of matters including what Parliament has legislated for in terms of appropriate penalties and the age of the person.

D.2 In some cases, if the court obtains evidence that the accused is suffering from a mental disorder, they can be assessed as unfit for trial, or acquitted because they were not criminally responsible at the time of the offence with a mental health disposal being issued by the court.

Custodial sentences

D.3 In 2017-18 the custodial sentence measures available to courts, that we have statistics for, included the options to:

a. Imprison the convicted person (if aged 21 or over); sentence to a Young Offenders’ Institution (YOI) (if aged 16 to 21 and not a child subject to compulsory supervision).

b. Issue an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR). The OLR provides for the lifelong supervision of high-risk violent and sexual offenders and allows for a greater degree of intensive supervision than is the current norm. The OLR is designed to ensure that offenders, after having served an adequate period in prison to meet the requirements of punishment, do not present an unacceptable risk to public safety once they are released into the community. The period spent in the community will be an integral part of the sentence, which lasts for the remaining period of the offender's life.

c. Impose an Extended Sentence. These sentences give additional post-release supervision on licence where it is considered that any existing supervision after the offender’s release from custody would be a risk to the public. Extended sentences are imposed on sex offenders or on violent offenders who receive a custodial sentence of four years or more.

d. Impose a Supervised Release Order. These can be used for people sentenced to less than 4 years in custody for offences other than sexual crimes. They mean that the person is compulsorily supervised by a criminal justice social worker for up to one year following release. These orders should only be imposed where the Court believes it would help prevent serious harm. The offender must comply with the reasonable instructions of the supervising officer.

e. Sentence a person under the age of 18 convicted of murder to be detained without limit of time in such place, and under such conditions, as Scottish Ministers may direct (the effect of this is normally detention in a young offenders institution or secure unit). Where the person is aged 18 or over but under 21 he or she should be detained initially in a young offenders institution.

f. Where a child (as defined in section 199 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011) is convicted on indictment and the court is of the view that no other method of dealing with the child is appropriate, the court may sentence the child to be detained for a period specified in the sentence and shall during that period be liable to be detained in such place, and on such conditions, as Scottish Ministers may direct.

Community sentences

D.4 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. The following list includes the commmunity sentence options to:

a. Impose a community payback order (CPO). These were introduced by the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 and can only be imposed in respect of offence(s) committed on or after 1 February 2011. The CPO replaced provisions for community service orders, probation orders, supervised attendance orders, and the community reparation order.

A CPO can consist of one or more of nine requirements including offender supervision, compensation, unpaid work or other activity, mental health treatment, drug treatment and alcohol treatment. Every order must contain either an unpaid work or other activity requirement, or an offender supervision requirement (or both). If an offender fails to comply with a requirement in the order, the court can impose a number of sanctions, including a restricted movement requirement.

b. Impose a restriction of liberty order: a community sentence introduced by section 5 of the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Act 1997 and available to courts nationally from 1 May 2002. This 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.

c. Impose a drug treatment and testing order (DTTO): a measure introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and rolled out in phases from 1999 onwards. These are designed to reduce or stop offending by addressing problem drug use through the provision or access to a closely monitored treatment programme.

d. Impose a probation order, of which some had conditions such as unpaid work or alcohol treatment attached (for offences committed prior to 1 February 2011).

e. Impose a community service order requiring the offender to undertake unpaid work (for offences committed prior to 1 February 2011).

f. Impose a supervised attendance order which the court can impose as an alternative to custody for people who have defaulted on fines imposed for minor criminal offences (for offences committed prior to 1 February 2011).

Financial penalties

D.5 The list below includes the financial penalty sentence options that allow the courts to :

a. Fine the offender.

b. Impose a compensation order requiring the offender to compensate the victim for any resulting injury, loss, damage, alarm or distress.

Other sentences

D.6 The list below includes the “other” sentence options that allow the courts to :

a. Admonish the offender or make an order to find caution (the overwhelming majority of these are admonishments).

b. Order an absolute discharge (with no conviction recorded in summary procedure) or, following a deferral of sentence, make no order.

c. Remit a child offender to a children's hearing (if the accused is a child, under 16 years of age or aged 16 or 17 and subject to a supervision requirement).

d. Make a guardianship order if the accused is suffering from a mental disorder (with no conviction recorded in summary procedure).

e. Make a compulsion order if the accused is suffering from a mental disorder (with a conviction recorded), for a period of six months with regular reviews.

D.7 The range of options available to the police for minor offences (Police non- court disposals) includes:

a. Anti-social behaviour fixed penalty notices (ASBFPNs) of £40, can be issued for eleven crime/offence types, including drunken-related behaviours and playing loud music, to people aged 16 or over. Payment of the penalty involves no admission of guilt.

b. Recorded Police Warnings were introduced on the 11th January 2016 to deal with low level offences and replace Formal Adult Warnings. Police recorded warnings can be issued to any person over the age of 16. It is not a finding of guilt but is an alternative to prosecution and can be taken into account within a period of two years should the offender come to the further notice of the police.

c. Disposals for young people who offend such as Early and Effective Interventions (EEI) and Restorative Justice Warnings.

d. It should be noted that Formal Adult Warnings (FAWs) (issued for minor offences) were withdrawn on the 11th January 2016 and effectively replaced by recorded police warnings.

D.8 When a report is submitted by the police to the 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 use a non-court direct measure (COPFS non-court disposal) which cover:

a. Fiscal fines of up to £300 for summary offences. Available to fiscals before Summary Justice Reform, but cannot be separately identified in CHS until after SJR in 2008;

b. Fiscal fixed penalties are generally issued for motor vehicle offences. Available to fiscals before SJR, but cannot be separately identified in CHS until after SJR in 2008;

c. Fiscal warnings provide a method of dealing with a case without recourse to prosecution – they mean that the person receiving that warning cannot be prosecuted for that offence.

d. Fiscal compensation orders of up to £5,000 payable to the victim. Only available after SJR, for personal injury, loss, damage, alarm or distress;

e. Combined fiscal fine and fiscal compensation order; and

f. 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. Work is ongoing with COPFS and Police Scotland to ensure that these disposals are recorded correctly, and we intend to publish FWO statistics when we are satisfied that they are accurate.

Classification of crimes and offences

D.9 Violations of criminal law are divided, for statistical purposes only, into crimes and offences. There are around 5,300 charge codes, which are the operational codes used within the Criminal Justice System to identify crimes and offences. These charge codes are mapped to around 400 crime codes, which in turn are grouped into 35 broader categories, and further into 7 crime and offence groups. This classification enables consistent and comparable reporting between criminal justice organisations and is presented in the table below.


Group 1: Non-sexual crimes of violence (Also referred to as Crimes of violence)
Homicide etc. Includes:
  • Murder
  • Culpable homicide
    • Culpable homicide (common law)
    • Causing death by dangerous driving
    • Causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs
    • Causing death by careless driving
    • Illegal driver involved in fatal accident
    • Corporate homicide
Attempted murder and serious assault Includes:
  • Attempted murder
  • Serious assault
An assault is classified as serious if the victim sustained an injury resulting in detention in hospital as an in-patient or any of the following injuries whether or not he/she was detained in hospital: fractures, internal injuries, severe concussion, lacerations requiring sutures which may lead to impairment or disfigurement or any other injury which may lead to impairment or disfigurement.
Robbery Includes:
  • Robbery and assault with intent to rob
Other Includes:
  • Threats and extortion
  • Cruel and unnatural treatment of children or adults
  • Abortion
  • Concealment of pregnancy
  • Possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, commit crime etc.
  • Abduction
  • Ill treatment and neglect of patients and vulnerable adults
  • Drugging
Group 2: Sexual crimes
Rape and attempted rape Includes:
  • Rape
  • Attempted rape
Sexual assault Includes:
  • Contact sexual assault (13-15 year old or adult 16+)
  • Sexually coercive conduct (13-15 year old or adult 16+)
  • Sexual crimes against children under 13 years
  • Lewd and libidinous practices
Crimes associated with prostitution Includes:
  • Crimes relating to prostitution
  • Soliciting services of person engaged in prostitution
  • Brothel keeping
  • Immoral traffic
  • Procuration
Other Includes:
  • Other sexually coercive conduct
  • Other sexual crimes involving 13-15 year old children
  • Indecent image offences i.e. “Taking, distribution, possession etc. of indecent photos of children”
  • Incest
  • Unnatural crimes
  • Public indecency
  • Sexual exposure
  • Other sexual crimes
Group 3: Crimes of dishonesty (Also referred to as Dishonesty)
Housebreaking Includes:
  • Theft by housebreaking domestic property (dwelling and non-dwelling)
  • Theft by housebreaking other property
  • Housebreaking with intent to steal domestic property (dwelling and non-dwelling)
  • Housebreaking with intent to steal other property
  • Attempted housebreaking with intent to enter and steal domestic property (dwelling and non-dwelling)
  • Attempted housebreaking with intent to enter and steal other property
Theft by opening a lockfast place (OLP) Includes:
  • Theft by opening lockfast places (OLP) (excluding motor vehicle)
  • OLP (excluding motor vehicle) with intent to steal
  • Attempted OLP excluding motor vehicle with intent to steal
Theft from a motor vehicle by OLP Includes :
  • Theft by OLP from a motor vehicle
  • OLP with intent to steal from a motor vehicle
  • Attempted OLP with intent to steal from a motor vehicle
Theft of motor vehicle Includes :
  • Theft of a motor vehicle and contents
  • Attempted theft of a motor vehicle
Shoplifting Includes :
  • Shoplifting
Other theft Includes :
  • Theft of pedal cycles
  • Theft from a motor vehicle not elsewhere classified
Fraud Includes:
  • Common law fraud
  • Statutory fraud
  • Forgery and uttering (excluding currency crimes)
Other crimes of dishonesty Includes:
  • Forgery (other)
  • Reset
  • Embezzlement
  • Corruption
Group 4: Fire-raising, vandalism etc.
Fire-raising Includes:
  • Fire-raising
  • Muirburn
Vandalism, etc. Includes:
  • Malicious mischief
  • Vandalism
  • Culpable and reckless conduct (not with firearms)
  • Reckless conduct with firearms
Group 5: Other crimes
Crimes against public justice Includes:
  • Perjury
  • Resisting arrest
  • Bail offences (other than absconding or re-offending)
  • Wasting police time
Handling offensive weapons Includes:
  • Possession of an offensive weapon
  • Restriction of offensive weapons
  • Having in a public place an article with a blade or point
  • Having in prison an article with a blade or point
  • Possession of an offensive weapon (not blade or point) in a prison
Drugs Includes:
  • Importation of drugs
  • Production, manufacture or cultivation of drugs
  • Possession and supply of controlled drugs
  • Related money laundering offences
  • Bringing drugs into prison
Other Includes:
  • Treason
  • Conspiracy
  • Explosives offences
  • Wrecking, piracy and hijacking
  • Crimes against public order


Group 6: Miscellaneous offences
Common assault Includes:
  • Common assault
  • Common assault on an emergency worker
Breach of the peace etc. Includes:
  • Breach of the peace
  • Threatening or abusive behaviour
  • Offence of stalking
  • Offensive behaviour at football
  • Threatening communications (Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012)
Drunkenness and other disorderly conduct Includes:
  • Drunk and disorderly
  • Drunk and incapable
  • Drunk in charge of a child
  • Drunk and attempting to enter licensed premises
  • Drunk or drinking in unlicensed premises
  • Disorderly on licensed premises
  • Drunk and attempting to enter a sports ground
  • Refusing to quit licensed premises
  • Consumption of alcohol in designated places, byelaws prohibited
Urinating etc. Includes:
  • Urinating /defecating
Other Includes:
  • Racially aggravated harassment
  • Racially aggravated conduct
  • False/Hoax calls
  • Offences involving children
  • Offences involving animals/plants
  • Offences against local legislation
  • Offences against liquor licensing laws
  • Labour laws
  • Naval military and air force laws
  • Offences against environmental legislation
  • Consumer protection acts
Group 7: Motor vehicle offences
Dangerous and careless driving Includes:
  • Dangerous driving offences
  • Driving carelessly
Driving under the influence Includes:
  • Driving or in charge of motor vehicle while unfit through drink or drugs
  • Blood alcohol content above limit
  • Failing to provide breath, blood or urine specimens
Speeding Includes:
  • Speeding in restricted areas
  • Other speeding offences
Unlawful use of motor vehicle Includes:
  • Driving whilst disqualified
  • Driving without a licence
  • Offences relating to driving without insurance
  • Vehicle excise license offences
Vehicle defect offences Includes:
  • Offences relating to faulty lights on vehicles
  • Other vehicle defects relating to tyres, brakes etc.
  • Weight contraventions for goods vehicles
Seat belt offences Includes:
  • Drivers and passengers failing to wear seatbelts
  • Failure to restrain children in appropriate seatbelts
Mobile phone offences Includes:
  • Driving whilst using a mobile phone
Other motor vehicle offences Includes:
  • Accident offences including failing to stop/provide details
  • Parking offences
  • Motor Vehicle Records of Work (eg Tachograph) Offences


Email: Ian Volante

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