Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2021-22

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 10 years from 2012-13 to 2021-22. The latest two years of data were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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11. Community sentences

(Tables 6a-b and 7a-c)

Community sentence is a collective term for the different sentences given by courts that are served in the community, often as an alternative to a custodial sentence. Community Payback Orders are the most widely used community sentence and can include requirements such as unpaid work or other activity requirements, being supervised by a social worker, or programme requirements. Other community sentences are Drug Treatment and Testing Orders and Restriction of Liberty Orders. There is a wide range of options available in the Scottish courts, which are listed at Annex D.

Twenty-four percent (or 14,160) of all convictions in 2021-22 resulted in a main penalty of a community sentence. This is the highest proportion over the most recent 10 years, up from 17% of convictions in 2012-13, and from 23% in 2020-21. There was a 45% increase in the number of community sentences between 2020-21 and 2021-22, up from 9,783 and driven by increases in the use of Community Payback Orders and Restriction of Liberty Orders (Chart 10).

Chart 10. Over the longer term, community sentences have declined with the exception of Restriction of Liberty Orders, which have steadily increased. People issued community sentences in Scottish criminal courts, by community sentence type, 2012-13 to 2021-22.
number of individuals issued a community sentence by type between 2012-13 and 2021-22 by community sentence type. Community Payback Orders make up the majority on sentences at over 10,000 in 2021-22, more than double Restriction of Liberty Orders.

Community Payback Orders (CPO) enable the courts to impose a range of requirements including unpaid work and supervision as well as being put through a programme of rehabilitation to address their behaviours (see Annex D for full details). CPOs replaced probation and community service orders for offences committed on or after 1 February 2011. This is reflected in the statistics, as the number of people receiving CPOs rose steadily between 2012-13 (14,940) to 2015-16 (16,766). Numbers then decreased by 37% from this 2015-16 peak to the 10,493 seen in 2021-22. CPOs represented 74% of all community sentences in 2021-22, compared to 70% in 2020-21.

A Restriction of Liberty Order (RLO) is a court order that requires a person to remain within a location, usually their home, at times specified by the Court. A person's compliance with the order is monitored electronically. The number of RLOs increased by 22% between 2020-21 and 2021-22, from 2,737 to 3,330. The use of RLOs has increased each year over the preceding eight years, increasing from 1% of people convicted in 2012-13 to 6% of people convicted in 2021-22. RLOs made up 24% of people receiving community sentences in 2021-22, down from 28% in 2020-21. Please note that these statistics on RLOs will not match the statistics published by G4S, the Scottish Government’s contractor for electronic monitoring. This is because the statistics in this publication are representative of the main charge in a set of proceedings and will not include RLOs issued for secondary charges. By contrast the G4S figures count all RLOs issued by the courts relating to all charges.

Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTOs) are designed to reduce or stop offending by addressing problem drug use through the provision or access to a closely monitored treatment programme. The number of DTTOs increased by 48% from 223 in 2020-21 to 330 in 2021-22, but are 46% lower than they were in 2012-13 (607 DTTOs).

Community sentences are available for courts to use in any case where the offence is punishable by imprisonment (with the exception of charges which attract mandatory life sentences). Level 1 CPOs (which involve an unpaid work or other activity requirement between 20 and 100 hours) can be imposed where a fine has not been paid. The majority of community sentences in 2021-22 were given for Common assault (2,476 or 17%), Threatening and abusive behaviour (2,461 or 17%) and Crimes against public justice (2,156 or 15%).

In 2021-22 the crime and offence types where community sentences were most commonly given were:

  • Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 - 423 people or 61% of convictions.
  • Causing to view sexual activity or images – 138 people or 63% of convictions.
  • Communicating indecently – 100 people or 74% of convictions.
  • Threatening to or disclosing intimate images – 44 people or 64% of convictions.
  • Indecent photos of children – 217 people or 74% of convictions.



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