Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2019-20

A total of 85,726 people were proceeded against in Scottish criminal courts in 2019-20, a fall of 4% from 89,725 proceedings in 2018-19 The number of convictions was 75,251 in 2019-20, which is also a fall of 4% from 78,488 in 2018-19. This continues the general downward trend of the last ten years,

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Key points

Court proceedings and convictions

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

  • A total of 85,726 people were proceeded against in court in 2019-20, a fall of 4% on 2018-19 (89,725 proceedings). The number of convictions fell at the same rate, down 4% to 75,251 from 78,488 in 2018-19. In the same period, there was a 0.4% fall in the number of criminal reports received by COPFS.
  • The overall conviction rate has remained relatively stable over the last ten years, ranging from 86% to 88%. It was 88% in 2019-20.
  • Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence crimes increased by 21% in the past year, from 1,772 in 2018-19 to 2,142 in 2019-20. The number of people convicted for attempted murder and serious assault rose by 11% from 1,166 in 2018-19 to 1,298 in 2019-20; and robbery, which increased by 14% from 361 to 410. However, the number of convictions for homicide remained unchanged over the past year.
  • The increase in convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence over the past year was also due, in part, to the introduction of the new crime of domestic abuse under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which came into effect for crimes committed on or after 1st April 2019. There were 206 convictions in 2019-20. This was out of 246 people proceeded against, giving a conviction rate of 84%.
  • There has been a slight decrease of 2% in the number of convictions for sexual crimes, from 1,224 in 2018-19 to 1,204 in 2019-20. Convictions for sexual crimes in 2019-20 were 47% higher than their lowest point in the last decade, ten years ago in 2010-11 (818 convictions).
  • The number of convictions for rape and attempted rape decreased by 8% from 142 in 2018-19 to 130 in 2019-20. The figure in 2019-20, was the second highest in the past decade after 2018-19. The number of proceedings for these crimes decreased by 4% from 313 in 2018-19 to 300 in 2019-20. The conviction rate for rape and attempted rape has fluctuated year to year and was 43% in 2019-20.
  • Convictions for crimes of dishonesty fell by 7% from 9,771 convictions in 2018-19 to 9,076 in 2019-20. This continues the decline of the last ten years with convictions now 42% lower than in 2010-11 (15,613).

Court sentences

(Tables 7 to 10)

  • The total number of convictions fell by 4%, however, those resulting in a custodial sentence decreased by 9% (from 12,221 in 2018-19 to 11,101 in 2019-20). Custodial sentences represented 15% of sentences imposed for all convictions in 2019-20, similar to the proportion over the past decade, which has ranged between 13% and 16%.
  • The average length of custodial sentence for all crimes, excluding life sentences and Orders for Lifelong Restrictions, in 2019-20 was almost a year (356 days), which is 9% longer than in 2018-19 (326 days). The increase in average sentence length is due to fewer shorter sentences being given out, rather than more longer sentences. This is the biggest increase in the past ten years, and the fact that fewer short sentences are being imposed may be associated with the presumption against short sentences extension from 3 months or less to 12 months or less on the 4th July 2019. However, it is too early to attribute any changes in sentencing patterns to the extension.
  • The crime type with the longest average sentences (excluding life sentences) in 2019-20 was rape and attempted rape, which decreased by 8% from 2,655 days in 2018-19 to 2,445 in 2019-20, which is the lowest since 2014-15.
  • Sentences of 3 to 6 months have been the most common sentence length since 2011-12, accounting for 33% of all custodial sentences in 2019-20.
  • The numbers of custodial sentences of 1 year or less, and over 2 years to 4 years, decreased in the past year. The numbers of sentences over 1 year to 2 years, and 4 years and over, increased in the past year.
  • In 2019-20, 22% (16,296) of all convictions resulted in a main penalty of a community sentence. This is a 7% increase in the number from 15,211 in 2018-19, and the highest proportion of convictions where community sentences were imposed in the past ten years (up from 14% in 2010-11).
  • The increase in community sentences in the past year was driven by increases in Community Payback Orders (CPOs) and Restriction of Liberty Orders (RLOs). CPOs increased by 6% from 11,812 people in 2018-19 to 12,530 in 2019-20. The number of RLOs increased by 15% from 2,848 in 2018-19 to 3,261 in 2019-20. In contrast, the number of Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTOs) decreased by 7% from 529 in 2018-19 to 493 in 2019-20.

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 24 in 2010-11 to 15 in 2019-20. This fall is driven by a decline for males, down to 26 convictions per 1,000 population in 2019-20 from 42 in 2010-11. The rate for females has also declined over the ten year period although more gradually, from seven convictions per 1,000 population in 2010-11 to five in 2019-20.
  • During 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 (those aged 31 and over). Nonetheless, in all age-sex groups under 50, there has been a fall in the number of convictions per 1,000 people.


(Tables 12 and 13)

  • The statutory domestic abuse aggravator was introduced in 2017-18, and was proven in 8,120 convictions in 2019-20, which is a 5% increase from 7,751 in 2018-19.
  • There were 9,355 convictions with a domestic abuse identifier recorded in 2019-20, a 2% increase from 9,205 convictions in 2018-19. This is the first year this has increased, after decreases each year from 2015-16.
  • There were 38 convictions with a statutory aggravation for domestic abuse in relation to a child in 2019-20. This aggravation was introduced by the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 and came into effect for crimes committed on or after 1st April 2019, and so there is no comparable data for previous years.
  • In respect of hate crime legislation, crimes may be aggravated if the crime is motivated against a particular characteristic. The number of convictions with a sexual orientation aggravation increased by 19% in the past year, and were at the highest level in the past ten years in 2019-20. There was also an increase in the past year for convictions with a religion aggravation by 12%, but the 2019-20 figure was the second lowest in the past ten years. Convictions with the racial aggravation were 6% lower than last year, and are at their lowest level in the past 10 years.


(Tables 14, 15 and 16)

  • The number of bail orders issued decreased by 16% from 34,735 in 2018-19 to 29,150 in 2019-20. Over the last decade, numbers have fallen by 37%, down from 46,221 bail orders in 2010-11. This is consistent with the longer term trends in volumes of cases coming to court.
  • There were 6,800 bail-related offences in 2019-20 (e.g. breach of bail conditions, such as failure to appear in court after being granted bail), a 5% increase compared to 2018-19 (6,504 bail related offences). The proportion of bail-related offences as a percentage of all bail orders granted in 2019-20 was 23%, which is the highest percentage in the last ten years.
  • In 2019-20, there were 11,599 undertakings to appear in court, a fall of 26% from 2018-19 (15,646 undertakings). This is the biggest fall from the previous year in the past ten years. The total in 2019-20 is 58% below the ten year high in 2010-11.

Police disposals

(Tables 17 to 18)

  • The total number of police disposals decreased by 4% in the past year, from 36,164 in 2018-19 to 34,631 in 2019-20. The number in 2019-20 was 49% lower than the highest number over the past ten years in 2013-14.
  • There were 22,353 Recorded Police Warnings issued during 2019-20, which is small increase of 1% from 22,108 in 2018-19.
  • In 2019-20, 7,036 people received an Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notice as a main penalty, a decrease of 21% from 8,893 in 2018-19.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service disposals

(Tables 20 to 22)

  • In 2019-20 there were 18,354 people issued a fiscal fine as a main penalty, very similar to the 18,460 in 2018-19. The number issued in 2019-20 was less than half the number (62% lower) than the ten year peak of 47,969 in 2012-13.
  • In 2019-20, 7,955 Crown Office Fixed Penalty Notices were issued to people as a main penalty, an increase of 14% from 6,977 in 2018-19. This is the second year in row that their use has increased, although the number issued now is 66% lower than the ten year high in 2013-14 (23,467).



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