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.

This document is part of a collection

13. Aggravations

(Table 12 and 13)

Codes can be recorded on the Criminal History System (CHS) by Police Scotland or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to provide additional information relating to the nature of a charge. Some of these codes (aggravations) are created by legislation. Although aggravations must be proved in court they can be proven by a single source of evidence, rather than by corroborated evidence. For example, someone who commits a common assault which is motivated by malice towards the victim as a result of the victim’s religion would have their offence recorded under assault with an aggravation code of religious prejudice. The statutory aggravations are taken into account during sentencing, and a higher penalty may be given as a result.

Other aggravations are not created by legislation, but are identifiers added to a charge to provide additional information for operational purposes. These do not need to be proved in Court.

This publication includes statistics on a subset of the full set of aggravation/identifier codes on the CHS. The set of aggravations this publication covers are: domestic abuse, disability, racial, religious, sexual orientation and transgender. The legislation creating these aggravations is outlined in Annex C. The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 created a statutory aggravation of domestic abuse, which came into force on 24th April 2017. The aggravation for domestic abuse in relation to a child under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 came into effect on the 1st April 2019, so this is second year data has been presented on this aggravation.

Please note that statistics on statutory bail aggravations, which identify offences that were committed while the offender was on bail, are not included in this publication but are published alongside this bulletin, under the “supporting documents” menu on the website for this publication.

Please be aware that a single proceeding can have more than one aggravation recorded against it e.g. “domestic” and “disability”. In these cases, the same proceeding would be counted twice in the aggravation tables but once in the other court tables.

Domestic abuse

The new statutory domestic abuse aggravation, used for the first time in 2017-18, was applied to 6,515 or 86% of convictions with a domestic identifier in 2020-21 – it is never applied to a proceeding without the non-statutory identifier, but it is not applied to convictions for the domestic abuse crime under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act. Whilst the statutory aggravation requires to be proven in court for it to apply to a conviction, the non-statutory identifier can be applied when police or COPFS believe there may be a domestic abuse element to a proceeding but it is not appropriate to apply the statutory aggravation. This may be because the date of the offence pre-dates the legislation which introduced the statutory aggravation, or it may be because there is insufficient evidence for the statutory aggravation to be proven in court. The number of convictions with a statutory domestic abuse aggravation in 2020-21 was 20% lower than the number of 8,176 in 2019-20.

In 2020-21 the vast majority of people convicted of an offence with a domestic abuse statutory aggravation were male (5,765 convictions or 89%). This proportion has been unchanged since it was introduced.

In 2020-21 the most common crime types (see Chart 13) with a domestic abuse statutory aggravation that people were convicted of were:

  • breach of the peace, which made up 37% of domestic abuse convictions (2,410 convictions) – of these breach of the peace-type convictions, the vast majority of convictions were for offences of “threatening or abusive behaviour” (2,242), with the others for stalking (146) and breach of the peace (22);
  • crimes against public justice (31% or 1,996 convictions); and
  • common assault (22% or 1,450 convictions).
Chart 13. The number of convictions by crime with a domestic abuse statutory aggravator, 2020-21
Bar chart showing the number of convictions with a domestic abuse statutory aggravator by crime type, with the highest being for Breach of the peace etc. (2,410) and Crimes against public justice (1,996).

There were 7,569 convictions with a domestic abuse identifier in 2020-21, a 20% decrease from 2019-20 (9,418 convictions).

Note that the introduction of the new domestic abuse crime under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act in 2019-20 may have affected the number of convictions with a domestic abuse identifier or statutory aggravation. This crime covers a course of conduct. Before the introduction of the crime, this may have resulted in multiple convictions for different offences at different times, whereas now they may result in a single conviction (with a more severe penalty). COPFS Domestic Abuse and Stalking Charges 2020-21 Statistics on the number of charges reported to them showed that the percentage of charges for stalking with a domestic abuse identifier fell from 65% in 2019-20 to 57% in 2020-21.

Domestic abuse in relation to a child

There were 90 people with a conviction with a statutory aggravation for domestic abuse in relation to a child in 2020-21, compared to 39 in 2019-20 This is the second year of data for this aggravation, which is only applied to the crime of domestic abuse under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act. his covers a course of conduct that has taken place on or after 1st April 2019 and as there will have been a time lag before such crimes could be reported, the 39 people with a conviction in 2019-20 does not reflect a full year under the act.

Other aggravations

After the domestic abuse aggravation, the next most common types of aggravations recorded in 2020-21 were:

  • racial (349 convictions);
  • sexual orientation (255 convictions); and
  • religious (123 convictions).

The number of convictions with a sexual orientation aggravation decreased by 40% in the past year, and is 65% higher than in 2011-12 (155 convictions). There was also a decrease in the past year for convictions with a religion aggravation by 47%. Convictions with the racial aggravation were 42% lower than last year, and were also at their lowest level in the past 10 years. Disability aggravations in 2020-21 were slightly lower (79) compared to last year (88). Convictions with a transgender aggravation were lower than last year, but are relatively low and tend to fluctuate year to year, due to the small numbers recorded (10 in 2020-21).



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