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.

12. Financial penalties and other sentences

(Tables 7a-b and 8a-c)

The Courts can impose financial penalties such as fines, which are enforced by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS), or compensation orders, which are collected by the SCTS with the monies then paid to the victim. A victim surcharge came into force in Scotland on 25 November 2019 under the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 which can apply to a person who is convicted and fined. For statistics on victim surcharges, see the SCTS Quarterly Fines Statistics.

The number of financial penalties fell by 52% in 2020-21 to 16,693 (39% of all disposals), with the scale of the most recent reduction most likely a result of reduced court activity during the pandemic. The number of financial penalties had been in general decline over the last ten years, dropping by from 59,320 in 2011-12, when they accounted for 55% of all disposals, to 34,699 in 2019-20 (46% of all disposals). This general trend over the last ten years is possibly because the types of cases that would have historically attracted a financial penalty are now more likely to be dealt with non-court disposals before they get to Court. More information is available in the Police disposals and COPFS disposals sections.

The median [note 1] fine imposed by Courts on individuals (excluding companies) in 2020-21 was £280, in cash terms [note 2]. The median fine has increased by a two-fifths (40%) over the last 10 years, up from £200 in 2011-12.

The use of compensation orders as a main penalty fell by 41% from 793 in 2019-20 to 467 in 2020-21, after remaining almost unchanged for the previous three years. Numbers are almost half (50%) that of 2011-12 (925). The median value for compensation orders was £250 in 2020-21, which is higher than the value of £200 ten years ago, but lower than the highest of £290 in 2017-18. Please note that compensation orders can be given as an additional punishment to a single offence and hence the median is based on either the main or secondary penalty for specific offences, although this still only refers to the main offence.

Notes for financial penalties and other sentences

Note 1. The median value is the midpoint of a ranked series of data. It is used so that very high or very low values do not impact excessively on the calculated average.

Note 2. Year-on-year comparisons for fines and compensation orders are in cash terms, and have therefore not been adjusted for inflation.

Other sentences

“Other sentences” are mostly admonishments (95% in 2020-21), which are a verbal warning from the sheriff. In 2020-21, 8,417 people were admonished, which represented 20% of all convictions. This is slightly higher than the 14% in 2011-12, although has remained almost unchanged since 2015-16. In 2020-21 the crimes for which admonishments were most commonly given for (where there were more than 1,000 convictions overall) were:

  • shoplifting with 39% (1,039 convictions)
  • crimes against public justice with 34% of all convictions being admonishments (2,297 convictions), and
  • breach of the peace etc. with 31% (2,176 convictions).



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