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
Court proceedings and convictions
(Tables 1, 2, 3, and 4a-c)
- A total of 46,497 people were proceeded against in court in 2020-21, a fall of 46% on 2019-20 (86,143 proceedings). The number of convictions fell at a similar rate, down 44% to 42,532 from 75,670 in 2019-20.
- The overall conviction rate increased to 91% in 2020-21, up from 88% in 2019-20. This follows a period of stability between 2011-12 and 2018-19, ranging from 86% to 88%.
- Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence decreased by 30% in the past year, from 2,159 in 2019-20 to 1,504 in 2020-21. The number of people convicted for homicide etc. fell by 41% from 81 in 2019-20 to 48 in 2020-21, and attempted murder and serious assault fell by 48% from 1,305 in 2019-20 to 679 in 2020-21; and robbery, which decreased by 32% from 415 to 283.
- The only increase for non-sexual crimes of violence over the past year was for crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which came into effect for crimes committed on or after 1st April 2019. In 2020-21, 383 were convicted of these crimes, up by 81% from 212 in 2019-20.
- There was a decrease of 33% in the number of convictions for sexual crimes, from 1,217 in 2019-20 to 817 in 2020-21.
- The number of convictions for rape and attempted rape decreased by 40% from 130 in 2019-20 to 78 in 2020-21. The number of proceedings for these crimes decreased by 49% from 299 in 2019-20 to 152 in 2020-21. The conviction rate for rape and attempted rape has fluctuated year to year and was 51% in 2020-21.
- Convictions for crimes of dishonesty fell by 44% from 9,146 convictions in 2019-20 to 5,092 in 2020-21.
- A total of 39 people were proceeded against in court for offences relating to coronavirus restrictions in 2020-21, with 36 of these resulting in a conviction.
(Tables 7 to 10)
- The total number of convictions fell by 44% to 42,532 in 2020-21 (from 75,670 in 2019-20). Those resulting in a custodial sentence decreased by 35% (from 11,122 in 2019-20 to 7,224 in 2020-21). Custodial sentences represented 17% of sentences imposed for all convictions in 2020-21, higher than 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 2020-21 was 329 days, which is 8% shorter than in 2019-20 (356 days).
- The crime type with the longest average sentences (excluding life sentences) in 2020-21 was rape and attempted rape, which decreased slightly from 2,445 days in 2019-20 to 2,435 in 2020-21, 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 2020-21.
- The numbers of custodial sentences in all sentence length grouping categories decreased in the past year, reflecting the overall substantial drop in the total number of custodial sentences issued due to reduced court activity in the year 2020-21 as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns.
- In 2020-21, 23% (9,741) of all convictions resulted in a main penalty of a community sentence. This is a 42% decrease in the number from 16,661 in 2019-20, and the highest proportion of convictions where community sentences were imposed in the past ten years (up from 16% in 2011-12).
- The numbers of all types of community sentences decreased in the past year, reflecting the overall substantial drop in the total number of community sentences issued due to reduced court activity in the year 2020-21 as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns.
- Of the 36 people convicted for offences relating to coronavirus restrictions in 2020-21, five received a custodial sentence all of which were between 3 and 6 months in length. Seven received a community payback order, two received a restriction of liberty order, thirteen received a fine, and nine were admonished.
Characteristics of offenders
(Tables 5, 6, 8c, 10b, and 11)
- The number of convictions per 1,000 population decreased from 15 in 2019-20 to 8 in 2020-21.
- The number of convictions per 1,000 population for males decreased from 26 in 2019-20 to 15 in 2020-21, and for females decreased from five in 2019-20 to three in 2020-21.
- The number of convictions per 1,000 population for all age-sex groups decreased in 2020-21, reflecting the overall substantial drop in the number of convictions due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the justice system.
(Tables 12 and 13)
- The statutory domestic abuse aggravation was introduced in 2017-18, and was proven in 6,513 convictions in 2020-21, which is a 20% decrease from 8,176 in 2019-20.
- There were 90 convictions with a statutory aggravation for domestic abuse in relation to a child in 2020-21, compared to 39 in 2019-20. This aggravation was created under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 and applies where a child was involved in the offending. The aggravation came into effect for crimes committed on or after 1st April 2019.
- 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 decreased by 40% in the past year. There was also a decrease in the past year for convictions with a religious aggravation by 47%. Convictions with a racial aggravation were 42% lower than last year.
(Tables 14, 15 and 16)
- The number of bail orders issued decreased by 34% from 37,516 in 2019-20 to 24,545 in 2020-21. Whilst the latest change is likely to be predominantly a reflection of the impact of COVID on the justice system, the longer term reducing trend is consistent with the longer term decline in volumes of cases coming to court.
- There were 6,315 bail-related offences in 2020-21 (e.g. breach of bail conditions, such as failure to appear in court after being granted bail), an 8% decrease compared to 2019-20 (6,835 bail related offences). The proportion of bail-related offences as a percentage of all bail orders granted in 2020-21 was 26%, which is the highest percentage in the last ten years, up from 18% in 2019-20.
- In 2020-21, there were 25,073 undertakings to appear in court, a rise of 61% from 2019-20 (15,558 undertakings). This can likely be attributed to the introduction of emergency Lord Advocate’s Guidelines on Liberation during the pandemic to minimise the number of people held in custody for court.
(Table 17 and 18)
- The total number of police disposals decreased by 12% in the past year, from 34,700 in 2019-20 to 30,555 in 2020-21.
- There were 21,004 Recorded Police Warnings issued during 2020-21, which is a fall of 6% from 22,401 in 2019-20.
- In 2020-21, 5,167 people received an Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notice as a main penalty, a decrease of 27% from 7,043 in 2019-20.
- In 2020-21, 316 people were given an RPW for offences related to coronavirus restrictions, the majority of which (85% or 269 people) were aged under 21 years old
Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service disposals
(Tables 20 to 22)
- In 2020-21 there were 13,245 people issued with a fiscal fine as a main penalty, a decrease of 28% from 18,366 in 2019-20.
- In 2020-21, 10,789 Fiscal Fixed Penalties were issued to people as a main penalty, an increase of 36% from 7,959 in 2019-20.
- In 2020-21, 154 people were given a Fiscal Fine for offences related to coronavirus restrictions.
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