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


This bulletin presents statistics on the number of people dealt with by the Scottish Criminal Justice System. The statistics are derived from data held on the Criminal History System (CHS), a central hub used for the electronic recording of information on people accused or convicted of perpetrating a criminal act. The CHS is used and maintained by Police Scotland.

All tables referred to below are available in the “Supporting Documents” Excel workbook for this bulletin. The workbook includes an “Introduction” sheet, with information on how to navigate the tables, alongside a “Notes” sheet, with relevant details to assist users when reading and interpreting results.

Changes made to this year’s report

Changes have been made to this year’s report as follows:

  • A new crime and offence grouping structure has been used for the first time. This new classification includes moving Common assault and Stalking from Miscellaneous offences to Non-sexual crimes of violence and greater disaggregation of both Non-sexual crimes of violence and Sexual crimes.
  • 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 within this bulletin under the Common assault crime category.
  • From 1 April 2021, Adult Protection Act Offences was no longer counted as a crime. The reason for this is that the charge does not relate to a criminal offence and was created to allow the circumstances to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal. This change has been backdated.

Further information on the new crime grouping structure can be found in Annex D, or in the User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland.

Routes through the criminal justice system

Chart 1 depicts the various possible routes through the criminal justice system. People accused of a crime can be dealt with in a variety of ways: they can be dealt with directly by the police, by measures such as a warning or fixed penalty notice (More information on these measures can be found in the Police Disposals section); or the police can send a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for review. COPFS can decide to:

The number of people passing through the Criminal Justice System at a particular point in time depends in part on levels of crime made known to the police, as well as the measures that are available for use by criminal justice organisations at that time, as these can influence the point at which action is taken.

At each of the stages presented in Chart 1 information is logged on the CHS regarding the status of the accused. COPFS and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) provide updates on their own systems which are fed back electronically to Police Scotland’s CHS. When an accused’s case is given a final conclusion it is considered completed and the case is “disposed” of from the criminal justice system. The option used to complete the case is referred to as the method of “disposal”, whether it is a court disposal used by SCTS or non-court disposal employed by COPFS or the Police.

Recorded crime

The statistical publication, Recorded Crime in Scotland 2021-22, was published on 28 June 2022. The Recorded Crime publication and this Criminal Proceedings publication divide violations of criminal law into (a) crimes and (b) offences (see Annex D for further detail). This distinction is made only for statistical reporting purposes.

As shown in Chart 1, the total number of crimes recorded by the police in Scotland in 2021-22 was 286,464, a decrease of 4% from the 299,452 crimes recorded in 2020-21. The proportion of recorded crimes ‘cleared up’ by the Police decreased by five percentage points from 59% in 2020-21 to 54% in 2021-22. A crime is regarded as 'cleared-up' where there is sufficient evidence under Scots criminal law to justify consideration of criminal proceedings.

The total number of offences recorded by the police decreased by 3% from 187,233 in 2020-21 to 180,913 in 2021-22. It should be noted that the number of offences recorded by the police generally tends to be affected more by Police activity and operational decisions than the number of crimes.

Whilst differences in counting methods (see Annex C) mean the figures in the Recorded Crime publication and those in this bulletin are not directly comparable, a crime or offence only comes to the attention of COPFS for consideration for prosecution once it has been recorded as such by the police, so recorded crime figures will have some influence on the number of prosecutions and convictions in Court.

Chart 1: Overview of action within the criminal justice system in 2021-22 [note 1]. Data from police recorded crime, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Scottish criminal court proceedings showing the differing volumes of crimes, offences and both court disposals and direct measures across the Scottish criminal justice system in 2021-22.
overview of actions taken within the criminal justice system from the point a crime or offence is committed, with notes underneath. Level 1 is one box: all crimes and offences committed. Level 2 shows how it is reported and is split into 4 boxes: Non-police source crimes and offences, reported to the police, detected by the police, and neither reported or detected by police or other agency. Level 3 shows how it is recorded and is split into 2 boxes: crimes (286,500) and offences (180,900) recorded by the police come from a crime or offence being reported or detected by the police. The other box is where it is not recorded by the police (see note 8). Level 4 shows if the crime (152,600) or offence (152,500) has been cleared up by the police (see note 2). Level 5 shows next steps from it being cleared up, with 5,300 Anti-social behaviour fixed penalties (note 5), 20,300 Recorded police warnings (note 5) and 148,900 Reports received by Procurator Fiscal (notes 3, 4). Non-police source crimes and offences from level 2 can also lead to a report received by Procurator Fiscal, or is Dealt with by detecting agency, or is referred to other agencies. Level 6: of the 148,900 reports, there were 14,000 “no action”, 12,200 PF conditional offence of fixed penalties, 5,200 fiscal warnings, 11,500 fiscal fines and 17,800 other non-court action (note 6). Level 7: there were also people convicted for crimes (29,600) and offences (29,700). Level 8: of those convicted, there were 8,200 custodial sentences (14%), 14,200 community sentences (24%), 26,700 financial penalties (45%) and 10,300 other sentences (17%).

Notes for Chart 1

Note 1. Figures rounded to the nearest 100, and based on activity during 2021-22.

Note 2. Crimes recorded in 2021-22 may not be cleared up or dealt with until 2022-23 or later.

Note 3. A report to the procurator fiscal may involve more than one crime or offence and more than one alleged offender.

Note 4. Reports to the fiscal on non-criminal matters such as sudden deaths, are not included in this total.

Note 5. Number of people from CHS, Recorded Police Warning also includes 6 Formal Adult Warnings.

Note 6. Number of cases; Data taken from Crown Office Case Processing statistics 2018 to 2023.

Note 7. Figures for people with a charge proved count the number of different proceedings in which a person is convicted. People may be convicted of multiple charges in one proceeding, but this is counted as one person convicted per proceeding.

Note 8. It may be deemed that an incident does not warrant recording e.g. if there is a lack of evidence that a crime was committed.

A number of outcomes may result in subsequent prosecutions or referrals to other agencies, for example if a condition such as payment of a fixed penalty is not complied with. For simplicity, these pathways are not shown Chart 1.

Police disposals and referrals

Chart 1 also shows that following a crime being cleared up, Police Scotland will either send a report to COPFS to decide what action should be taken or will deal with the case directly. Section 15 of this report contains statistics on the following non-court disposals available to the police when dealing with a case directly:

  • Recorded Police Warnings (RPWs) were introduced on 11 January 2016 to deal with a wider range of low-level offences. A warning can be issued on the spot, or a notice issued retrospectively. This scheme replaced and extended Formal Adult Warnings.
  • Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notices (ASBFPNs) as provided for in the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 for a range of offences including drunken-related behaviours and playing loud music; and
  • actions which are used specifically for juveniles (aged 8 to 17) such as Restorative Justice Warnings and Early and Effective Interventions (EEI).

There are further options available to the police that we are not able to provide data on such as conditional offers of a fixed penalty notice for coronavirus restrictions or moving motor vehicle offences. A full listing of the range of disposals available can be seen in Annex D.

COPFS disposals and referrals

In 2021-22, COPFS received 148,925 criminal reports (from the police and other specialist reporting agencies), a decrease of 6% compared to 2020-21 (159,184) – more information is available in the COPFS Case processings statistics 2018 to 2023. Where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to take action, prosecution in court is only one of a range of possible options the Procurator Fiscal has for dealing with people they have received a report for and, where appropriate, they may issue a direct measure. Statistics for the following non-court disposals are included in this publication:

  • Fiscal fines of between £50 and £500
  • Compensation orders of up to £5,000
  • Fiscal warnings, and
  • Fixed penalties of between £50 and £300, generally issued for motor vehicle offences.

There are further actions that the Procurator Fiscal can take that are not included in this report such as diverting cases to social work and other agencies and referrals to the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA).

A full listing of the range of disposals available can be seen in Annex D.

Court disposals

The majority of statistics in this publication provide information on criminal cases brought to court and are contained in Sections 1 to 14. The outcomes possible for the person proceeded against are:

  • the person is convicted, either after pleading guilty or being found guilty after evidence has been heard in Court
  • the person is acquitted following a not guilty verdict
  • the person is acquitted following a not proven verdict
  • the person has their plea of not guilty accepted by the prosecutor or the case against them is deserted i.e. the Crown decides no longer to proceed with a prosecution at that time (though they may in some cases decide to prosecute at a future date)

Comparability with other statistics

Please note that the statistics presented in Chart 1 are taken from multiple data sources which are not strictly comparable, and there is no direct relationship between the number of crimes and offences recorded by the police and the number of follow-up actions taken by other agencies within the criminal justice system. For example, in the recorded crime statistics a single crime or offence recorded by the Police may have more than one perpetrator, each of whom would be counted separately in the criminal proceedings statistics. There are also some offences included in this bulletin, such as failure to pay a television licence, which are reported directly to the procurator fiscal by specialist reporting agencies such as TV Licensing and therefore are not included in the police recorded crime statistics.

There are other comparability issues in that crimes or offences recorded and cleared up by the Police may not be processed by the Procurator Fiscal or the Courts in the same year as they were recorded. There is also the possibility that the crime or offence recorded by the police is altered by the Procurator Fiscal during the marking process.

For full details of comparability issues please see the relevant sections in Annex C.

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland

The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. This provides assurance that these statistics are of the highest quality and meet user needs, and that they comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Further information on National Statistics is published by the UK Statistics Authority.



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