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.

Impact of COVID restrictions on the Justice System

These figures cover the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of this across the justice system. Whilst it is not yet possible to isolate the impact of the pandemic on the data, it is reasonable to conclude that the latest data is predominantly a reflection of the impact of the pandemic across the justice system, and should not be interpreted as indicative of longer-term trends. This message applies to all of the statistics presented in this publication, even if not explicitly stated in every instance to avoid repetition.

Whilst this publication focuses predominantly on court and out-of-court measures for dealing with offending, the pandemic affected all parts of the justice system. These figures reflect, to varying degrees, the impact of the pandemic across all parts of the system. These include but are not limited to; changes in offending behaviour and the types of crime reported to and recorded by the police; case processing and prioritisation by COPFS and SCTS; and reductions in court capacity and the types of court available for cases to be heard. Whilst all court types experienced some reduction in capacity over the course of the pandemic, not all court types were affected equally. This is likely to have had a significant impact on the mix of cases concluded in court and associated sentencing outcomes, presented in the figures here.

Chart 2 below shows the number of court proceedings concluded each month for 2020-21, compared with 2019-20 and 2018-19 to illustrate the reduction in activity over the year. Court proceedings were at their highest throughout the late Summer/early Autumn of 2020 and appeared to reach around average levels in August and December, but were substantially below average levels in all other months of the year

Chart 2. Number of proceedings in Scotland by month of disposal 2018-19 to 2020-21
A line chart showing the impact of COVID restrictions on proceedings in court each month of 2020-21 compared to the two previous years.

Further information on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the Justice System in Scotland, including information from Police Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, courts and prisons is provided in the Justice Analytical Services monthly data report.



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