Criminal proceedings in Scotland: 2020-2021

Statistics on criminal proceedings concluded in Scottish courts and alternative measures to prosecution issued by the police and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service are presented for the ten years from 2011-12 to 2020-21. The latest year’s data is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

6. People convicted by crime group

(Tables 4a and 4b)

Non-sexual crimes of violence

Non-sexual crimes of violence include the crimes of homicide, attempted murder & serious assault, Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act, robbery and other violent crime. Convictions for these types of crimes decreased by 30% in the past year, from 2,159 in 2019-20 to 1,504 in 2020-21.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 (DASA) came into effect on 1st April 2019 for crimes committed on or after this date, and were included in the 2019-20 bulletin for the first time, however as the full course of conduct has to have taken place on or after 1 April 2019 the time lag before such crimes could be reported meant the 2019-20 bulletin did not effectively cover a full year under the act. The current 2020-21 bulletin therefore includes the first full year under the act, but the numbers will have been impacted by reduced court activity due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Note that in the past, these crimes will often have been convicted under individual charges in other crimes or offences categories, including breach of the peace etc. (which covers stalking, and threatening and abusive behaviour) and common assault in the miscellaneous offences category. See also Table 13 that shows the number of crimes and offences that had an aggravation of domestic abuse recorded against them.

There were 383 convictions under this act in 2020-21. This is an increase of 81% over the year, although caution is advised for the reasons explained above, the number convicted in 2019-20 was not effectively a full year under the act. Convictions under DASA were the only category within the non-sexual crimes of violence group to have increased; all other crimes in this group decreased.

The number of people convicted for attempted murder and serious assault decreased by 48% from 1,305 in 2019-20 to 679 in 2020-21 ; and the number convicted for robbery, decreased by 32% from 415 to 283.

The number of homicide convictions was 48 in 2020-21, a decrease of 41% from 81 in 2019-20. The number of convictions for other non-sexual crimes of violence (see Annex D13 for type of crimes this includes) declined by 24%, from 146 convictions in 2019-20 to 111 in 2020-21.

Sexual crimes

The number of convictions for sexual crimes decreased by 33% in the past year. The number of convictions was 817 in 2020-21, down 400 convictions from 1,217 in 2019-20.

The number of convictions for rape and attempted rape decreased by 40% (from 130 in 2019-20 to 78 in 2020-21). The figure in 2019-20, was the second lowest in the past decade after 2011-12 (49). The number of proceedings for these crimes decreased by 49% to 152 in 2020-21, from 299 in 2019-20. The conviction rate for rape and attempted rape increased this year by eight percentage points to 51%. This is not indicative of an upward trend, as the conviction rate fluctuates year to year - the highest over the past ten years was 56% in 2012-13, and the lowest was 39% in 2016-17. Please note that recording delays are typical for high court activity due to the complex nature of cases held there. As a result the number of proceedings and convictions for rape and attempted rape for 2020-21 may be slightly underestimated. More information is available in the Annex revisions section.

There were 147 sexual assault convictions in 2020-21, down 52% since 2019-20 (306 convictions). Prior to this year the number of convictions for sexual assault had been increasing, from 151 in 2011-12 to 306 in 2019-20.

Chart 6 shows that over the last decade, other sexual crimes [note 1] have grown as a proportion of all convictions for sexual crimes and are the majority (71%) of all crimes in this category. In the past year convictions for this crime group decreased by 21%, from 736 convictions in 2019-20 to 582 in 2020-21. The longer term growth seen in previous years in the proportion of this crime type has been partly driven by increases in convictions for “taking, distribution, possession etc. of indecent photos of children”, and for “communicating indecently”. Further information can be found in the study Recorded crime in Scotland: 'Other sexual crimes', 2013-2014 and 2016-2017 which was published by the Scottish Government in 2017.

Chart 6. Number of sexual crimes convictions, 2011-12 to 2020-21
A line chart showing the number of sexual crime convictions by crime type since 2011-12.

Notes for Sexual crimes

Note 1. Includes “taking, distribution, possession etc. of indecent photos of children”, public indecency, sexual exposure, communicating indecently and intercourse with older child. See Annex D for more detail.

Crimes of dishonesty

Over the latest year convictions for crimes of dishonesty declined by 44% in 2020-21, down to 5,092 convictions from 9,146 in 2019-20. There were declines in all crime types within the crimes of dishonesty group between 2019-20 and 2020-21, including:

  • A 51% decrease in the number of shoplifting convictions, which is the one of the biggest decreases of any type of crime or offence in absolute numbers of convictions (-2,749 convictions), from 5,422 in 2019-20 to 2,673 in 2020-21.
  • A 30% decrease in housebreaking convictions, from 805 to 560.
  • A 16% decrease in theft by opening lockfast place convictions from 114 to 96.
  • A 28% decrease in theft from a motor vehicle convictions, from 90 to 65 convictions.
  • A 32% decrease in other dishonesty and a 39% decrease in other theft.
Chart 7. Convictions for crimes of dishonesty, 2011-12 to 2020-21
A bar chart showing the fall in convictions for all types of dishonesty between 2011-12 and 2020-21.

Coronavirus restrictions

Criminal proceedings and convictions under Coronavirus legislation, that was introduced in April 2020, have been included in this bulletin for the first time. In 2020-21 there were 39 people proceeded in court for offences relating coronavirus restrictions, with 36 people convicted. Of those convicted, five (14%) received a custodial sentence, all of which were 3 to 6 months in length. Twenty five per cent (9 people) received a community sentence, 36% (13 people) received a fine and 25% (9 people) received an ‘other’ sentence all of which were an admonishment.



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