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.

This document is part of a collection

16. Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service disposals

(Tables 19-21)

When a report is submitted by the Police (or other specialist reporting agency) to the Procurator Fiscal, prosecution in court is only one of a range of possible options for dealing with people who have been charged. The Procurator Fiscal can decide to take no action e.g. if there is insufficient evidence, or if it is not in the public interest to proceed. Alternatively, the Procurator Fiscal can decide to use a non-court direct measure such as a fiscal fine or a diversion from prosecution. Where the Procurators Fiscal decides to offer a diversion from prosecution, this is not shown in the data in this publication.

Of COPFS disposals included in this publication for 2021-22, around 37% were fiscal fines (11,834 people) with an additional 37% being fiscal fixed penalties (12,057). Fiscal Warnings made up 16% of all COPFS disposals (5,031) (Chart 17). The remainder were made up of compensation orders, where the accused pays a prescribed sum of money to court and it is then remitted to the victim, and combined offers which comprise a fine and a compensation element. A full listing of the range of disposals available can be seen in Annex D.

Chart 17. Fiscal fines and Fiscal fixed penalties were the two most common disposals issued by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service disposals by type, 2021-22.
Proportion of COPFS< disposals given by type, with the most being Fiscal Fines (37%) and Fiscal fixed penalties (also 37%).

Procurator fiscal warnings

Procurator Fiscal Warnings (FW) provide a method of dealing with a case that doesn’t involve prosecution, and if someone receives a FW, they cannot be prosecuted for that specific offence in the future. Figures are reported from 2012-13 onwards (earlier figures obtained from COPFS can be seen in Table 1). Different recording practices before this date meant that it wasn’t possible to present older figures.

The number of FWs in 2021-22 (5,031) showed a decrease of 28% from 2020-21 (7,002). This is also the lowest total seen in the most recent 10 years. The lower levels over the most recent four years may be partly due to increased use of RPWs, and to a presumption that 16- and 17-year-olds will be referred to the Children’s Reporter rather than given a FW. At the same time, the range of offences for which FWs are used has increased.

Fiscal work orders

Fiscal Work Orders (FWOs) were introduced across Scotland in April 2015 and provide the Procurators Fiscal with the option of offering an offender a period of unpaid work of between 10 and 50 hours, as an alternative to prosecution. Successful completion of the order discharges the right to prosecute. We are currently unable to derive statistics on Fiscal Work Orders due to uncertainty around the recording of this information on the Criminal History System. Work is ongoing to resolve this issue, with the intention of publishing FWO statistics in this bulletin in future. However, numbers of FWOs issued can be found elsewhere in the Justice Social Work Statistics.

Fiscal fines

Until 6 April 2020, fiscal fines of between £50 and £300 could be offered to an accused by the Procurator Fiscal as an alternative to prosecution. From 7 April 2020, under Coronavirus legislation, the upper limit was increased to £500. Where a fiscal fine is accepted, the accused cannot be prosecuted, but if the fine is unpaid, it can be enforced through the courts. If the fine is actively rejected, prosecution for the original offence will normally follow.

In 2021-22, 11,834 people were issued a fiscal fine as a main penalty, 11% lower than the 13,257 people they were issued to in 2020-21.

Fiscal fines were most commonly issued for the following crimes and offences:

  • 32% were for Drugs possession crimes (3,829 fines),
  • 17% were for Threatening and abusive behaviour offences (2,031 fines), and
  • 14% were for Unlawful use of vehicle offences, which totalled 1,638 fines.

Fiscal fixed penalties

Crown Office Fixed Penalties (COFPs) are generally issued for certain road traffic offences and can involve a fine or a fine and points. The amount of the fine is prescribed by law. In 2021-22, 12,057 COFPs were issued to people as a main penalty, an increase of 12% from 10,795 in 2020-21. This is the fourth year in a row that their use has increased and the largest total seen since 2014-15 (15,488).

The increase in 2021-22 was driven by a rise in penalties for Speeding offences (up 1,573 penalties or 24%) since 2020-21.

The most common crime that COFPs were issued for in 2021-22 was Speeding offences (8,142 penalties), which made up more than two thirds (68%) of all COFPs. After this COFPs were most commonly issued for the following crimes (Chart 18):

  • 15% were for Documentation offences (such as using a vehicle without a test certificate, without a licence or failure to insure), totalling 1,807;
  • 5% were for Serious driving offences (such as mobile phone and seatbelt offences), totalling 570 penalties.
  • 5% were for Signal and direction offences, totalling 549 penalties; and
  • 5% were for Lighting, construction & use offences, totalling 645 penalties.

In 2021-22, more than three-quarters (78% or 9,382) of COFPs were issued to males and one-third (34% or 4,102) of all COFPs were issued to males aged over 40.

Chart 18. The most common offence the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service issued a Fiscal Fixed Penalty for was Speeding offences. Fiscal Fixed Penalties issued by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, by offence type, 2021-22.
most common offences given a Fiscal Fixed Penalty issued by COPFS, the most being for Speeding offences (8,142) followed by Documentation offences (1,807).



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