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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Key Points

Court proceedings and convictions

(Tables 1, 2 and 3a-c)

  • A total of 67,643 people were proceeded against in court in 2021-22, an increase of 45% on 2020-21 (46,590 proceedings). Over the same span convictions rose 39% from 42,614 in 2020-21 to 59,295 in 2021-22.
  • The overall conviction rate decreased to 88% in 2021-22, down from 91% in 2020-21. This marks a return to the levels seen pre-pandemic where, between 2012-13 and 2019-20, conviction rates ranged from 86% to 88%.
  • Convictions for Non-sexual crimes of violence increased by 37% between 2020-21 (6,608) and 2021-22 (9,068). This includes increases of 100% for people convicted of Murder and culpable homicide (up from 24 to 48) and 45% for Serious assault and attempted murder (up from 682 to 992).
  • Convictions under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which was the only non-sexual crime of violence to increase between 2019-20 and 2020-21, increased again between 2020-21 and 2021-22 by 81% (up from 381 to 689).
  • There was an increase of 52% in the number of convictions for Sexual crimes, from 841 in 2020-21 to 1,279 in 2021-22.
  • The number of convictions for Rape and attempted rape increased by 105% from 78 in 2020-21 to 160 in 2021-22. The number of proceedings for these crimes increased by 123% over the same span, from 151 in 2020-21 to 336 in 2021-22. The conviction rate for Rape and attempted rape fluctuates year to year and was 48% in 2021-22.
  • Convictions for Crimes of dishonesty rose by 7% from 5,102 in 2020-21 to 5,472 in 2021-22.

Court sentences

(Tables 6-9)

  • The total number of convictions rose by 39% from 42,614 in 2020-21 to 59,295 in 2021-22. Those resulting in a custodial sentence increased by 13% (from 7,239 in 2020-21 to 8,169 in 2021-22). Custodial sentences represented 14% of sentences imposed for all convictions in 2021-22 as compared to 17% in 2020-21. This is a return to the proportion seen pre-pandemic, which ranged between 13% and 16% between 2012-13 and 2019-20.
  • The average length of a custodial sentence, excluding life sentences and Orders for Lifelong Restrictions, was 376 days in 2021-22. This is 14% longer than the 329 days seen in 2020-21 and nearly one-third longer than the 284 days seen in 2012-13.
  • The crime types with the longest average sentences (excluding life sentences) in 2021-22 are Murder and culpable homicide (2,589 days) and Rape and attempted rape (2,572 days). Compared to 2020-21, average sentences for Murder and culpable homicide decreased (down 1% from 2,620 days) and Rape and attempted rape increased (up 6% from 2,435 days).
  • Sentences of 3 to 6 months have been the most common sentence length since 2012-13, accounting for 31% of all custodial sentences in 2021-22.
  • While the overall proportion of convictions leading to a custodial sentence decreased between 2020-21 and 2021-22 (from 17% to 14%), the numbers of custodial sentences in all sentence length grouping categories increased.
  • In 2021-22, 24% (14,160) of all convictions resulted in a main penalty of a community sentence. This is a 45% increase from the 9,783 seen in 2020-21 and reflects the underlying rise in court activity, and the highest proportion of convictions where community sentences were imposed in the past 10 years (up from 17% in 2012-13).
  • The numbers of all types of community sentences except for Community Service Orders increased in 2021-22, reflecting the overall increase in court activity.

Characteristics of offenders

(Tables 4, 5, 7c, 9b and 10)

  • The number of convictions per 1,000 population increased from eight in 2020-21 to 12 in 2021-22. This is broadly in line with the rise in court activity.
  • The number of convictions per 1,000 population for males increased from 15 in 2020-21 to 20 in 2021-22, and for females increased from three in 2020-21 to four in 2021-22.
  • The number of convictions per 1,000 population for all age-sex groups increased in 2021-22, with the sole exception of 16-17 year old males. This reflects the overall increase in court activity following the COVID-19 lockdowns.


(Tables 11 and 12)

  • The statutory domestic abuse aggravation was introduced in 2017-18, and was proven in 7,803 convictions in 2021-22, which is a 20% increase from the 6,529 seen in 2020-21.
  • There were 139 convictions with a statutory aggravation for domestic abuse in relation to a child in 2021-22, compared to 89 in 2020-21. This aggravation was created under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 and applies where a child was involved or otherwise adversely affected by the offending. The aggravation came into effect for crimes committed on or after 1 April 2019.
  • In respect of hate crime legislation, crimes may be aggravated if the crime is motivated against a particular characteristic. Compared to 2020-21, the number of convictions with aggravations in 2021-22 increased for Sexual orientation (up 49%), Racial (up 58%) and Religious (up 22%). Aggravations for Disability (up 49% to 118) were at their highest for the most recent 10 years (since 2012-13).


(Tables 13-15)

  • Whilst the number of court proceedings increased in 2021-22, the number of bail orders decreased by <1%, from 24,645 in 2020-21 to 24,538 in 2021-22. Whilst the most recent change may reflect the continuing impact of COVID-19 on the justice system, the longer term declining trend is consistent with lower volumes of cases coming to court.
  • There were 7,208 bail-related offences in 2021-22 (e.g. breach of bail conditions, such as failure to appear in court after being granted bail), a 14% increase compared to 2020-21 (6,331 bail related offences).
  • The proportion of bail-related offences as a percentage of all bail orders granted in 2021-22 was 29%, which is the highest percentage in the most recent 10 years and up from 26% in 2020-21. This may in part reflect people subject to bail being on bail for longer periods due to court backlogs.
  • In 2021-22, there were 24,615 undertakings to appear in court, a fall of 2% from 2020-21 (25,073 undertakings).

Police disposals

(Tables 16-17)

  • The total number of police disposals increased by 2% from 30,616 in 2020-21 to 31,247 in 2021-22.
  • There were 20,245 Recorded Police Warnings (RPWs) issued during 2021-22, which is a fall of 4% from the 21,040 issued in 2020-21.
  • In 2021-22, 5,301 people received an Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notice as a main penalty, an increase of 3% from the 5,168 issued in 2020-21.
  • Early and Effective Interventions increased by 30% between 2020-21 and 2021-22, from 4,133 to 5,367.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service disposals

(Tables 19-21)

  • In 2021-22 11,834 people were issued with a fiscal fine, which are available to any offence which be tried summarily, as a main penalty, a decrease of 11% from the 13,257 issued in 2020-21.
  • In 2021-22, 12,057 Fiscal Fixed Penalties, which relate only to certain road traffic offences, were issued to people as a main penalty, an increase of 12% from 10,795 in 2020-21.



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