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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Annex E – Legislative and policy changes

Coronavirus legislation

E.1 The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 was introduced in April 2020. National lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic were in place from 24 March to 19 June 2020 and 5 January to 22 February 2021. This resulted in significant reduced activity in both the number of reports being referred to COPFS and the number of proceedings going through Scottish courts. Local tiered restrictions also affected court activity in various regions across Scotland throughout 2020-21 when national lockdowns were not in place. Figures for 2021-22 reflect the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the justice system including continued social distancing requirements in court and the early stages of dealing with the backlog of cases from 2020-21. Therefore, caution should be taken when comparing figures from 2020-21 and 2021-22 with previous years as it is likely they reflect the impact of the pandemic and may not be indicative of longer-term trend(s).

Domestic Abuse Scotland Act

E.2 The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 introduced a crime relating to a person engaging in a course of behaviour relating to domestic abuse. There is also a provision for a new statutory aggravation relating to children, which is aggravated if the offence directs behaviour at a child, or uses a child to direct behaviour at the partner/ex-partner. It came into force on 1 April 2019.

E.3 In the past, these crimes will often have been convicted under individual charges in other crimes or offences categories, including Breach of the peace etc. (which covers stalking, and threatening and abusive behaviour) and Common assault in the Miscellaneous offences category. Therefore it may affect the numbers of proceedings and convictions for these crimes, and the numbers of proceedings and convictions with a statutory domestic abuse aggravation or domestic abuse identifier. COPFSDomestic Abuse and Stalking Charges in Scotland 2021-22 statistics on the number of charges reported to them showed that the percentage of charges for stalking with a domestic abuse identifier were unchanged from 57% in 2020-21 to 57% in 2021-22.

E.4 The introduction of this act is also likely to have an effect on the numbers of proceedings and convictions in the violent crime category, as the new crime under this act was added to this category. It was put in this category after consultation with users.

Other changes to legislation during the period covered by this bulletin

E.5 The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 introduced a new statutory aggravation for domestic abuse which came into force in April 2017. This act also covers ‘intimate images’ offences (often known as ‘revenge porn’).

E.6 Sections 79-81 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 (“the 2016 Act”) made significant changes to the sheriff and jury procedures contained in the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 (“the 1995 Act”), and were introduced over three dates during the period May to August 2017. This may feed through to average sentence lengths because it allows sentence discounts for early guilty pleas.

E.7 The 2016 Act - Part I (Police powers) came into force on 25 January 2018. The provisions, amongst other matters, transferred written undertaking provisions from the 1995 Act to Part I of the 2016 Act.

E.8 On 5 December 2014 the alcohol limit for drivers in Scotland was reduced from 80 mg to 50 mg per 100 ml blood.

E.9 The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, which came into effect on 1 March 2012, was repealed on 20 April 2018. See Annex E7 in the 2018-19 bulletin for a table of all the proceedings and convictions under this act by year.

E.10 From 1 April 2021, Adult Protection Act Offences (also called Breach of adult at risk banning order) was no longer counted as a crime. This charge does not relate to a criminal offence and was created to allow the circumstances to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal. This exclusion from the Criminal Proceedings total has also been backdated.

E.11 The Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021 came into effect on 24 August 2021. This introduced a new crime of Common Assault of a Retail Worker and the first proceedings for this crime are included in the 2021-22 bulletin. Common Assault of a Retail Worker forms part of the Common assault crime category (see Annex D.13).

E.12 The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021 came into effect on 5 November 2021. Under this new law, owners of dogs that attack or worry livestock can be fined up to £40,000 or sent to prison for up to 12 months.

E.13 The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protection and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 came into force on 30 November 2020. This increases penalties for animal welfare and health offences as well as wildlife crimes.

E.14 The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 came into full effect on 17 December 2021 and means children under 12 can no longer be charged or arrested.



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