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.
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Annex A - Data sources and data standards
Court proceedings, police disposals and COPFS disposals
A.1 Statistical information on the Scottish Government Criminal Proceedings database is derived from data held on the Criminal History System (CHS), a central database used for the electronic recording of information on persons accused and/or convicted of committing a criminal act. The CHS is maintained by Police Scotland and they are responsible for managing its operation and own the majority of the data.
A.2 Chart 1 in the main body of the bulletin depicts how people accused of committing a crime move through the criminal justice system. People can be disposed from the system in a variety of ways, including being dealt with directly by the police by fines or warnings, being fined or warned by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), or being proceeded against in court. At each of these stages information is logged on the CHS regarding the status of the accused. COPFS and the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS) make updates on their own systems which are fed back electronically to Police Scotland’s CHS. When an offender’s case reaches its final conclusion or “disposal” and a sentence is given for guilty offenders, the case is considered completed on the CHS, and after this point, the data is sent to us in the next monthly return.
A.3 The Scottish Government receives individual-level returns from the CHS on a monthly basis. These are electronically submitted by Police Scotland for cases that are completed, or if case has been further modified. Information on criminal trials that are on-going or have not been dealt with through the police or COPFS disposals are not included in this report, and not held by the Scottish Government. As the CHS data used to produce this bulletin is provided via an existing automated process, there was no cost to the data provider.
Bail and undertakings
A.4 The source of the statistical data on bail orders and undertakings is also the CHS. The Scottish Government receives monthly files for this data.
Other data sources
A.5 Chart 1 presents a range of summary data other than that derived from the CHS, such as information collected directly from COPFS, Scottish Government Recorded Crime outputs, referrals to the Children’s Reporter and information on police conditional offers made for motor vehicle offences, based on figures provided from another Police Scotland database. Please see Annex C for a description on how the counting bases for these data sources differ.
A.6 The population figuresused to produce the rates shown in Table 5 are the relevant mid-year estimates prepared by the National Records of Scotland (NRS).
Data standards for justice partners
A.7 Data standards are adhered to by organisations inputting data to the CHS in terms of the definitions of data items and their corresponding values. These standards are agreed under the Justice Digital Strategy and ensure there is consistency across the justice organisations in the information they collect. Further information on the data standards can be found here and in the Integration of Scottish Criminal Justice Information Systems (ISCJIS) data sharing manual.
A.8 The following protocols also ensure consistency in the data collected:
- The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service protocol for the handling of errors that may occur in the transmission of data between justice partners’ databases;
- The protocol for the investigation/resolution of disputed data between Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service;
- The protocol for sharing electronic information between justice partners.
Further information on these protocols can be seen here.
A.9 The Scottish Government also has representation on a data quality group and is kept informed of any data quality issues relating to the CHS. This group meets around three times a year and includes representatives from Police Scotland, COPFS, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administrator, and Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.
A.10 The Scottish Government has implemented a crime code classification framework to ensure consistent and comparable reporting between criminal justice statistical outputs. Please see Annex B4 - B5 and Annex D for full details.
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