4. People convicted in court
There are four main court types that deal with criminal cases in Scotland.
- The High Court, which deals with the most serious crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery. Murder convictions carry a mandatory life sentence and the maximum penalty that may be imposed in the other cases is up to life imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. The exact maximum in a given case will be determined by any limit provided for in law for the offences being prosecuted. A single judge hears cases with a jury of 15 people. The jury reach a verdict, and if a conviction arises, the judge determines sentence.
- Sheriff Courts, which deal with the majority of cases in Scotland. These can either be solemn, where the Sheriff sits with a jury of 15 people or summary, where the Sheriff sits alone [note 1]. For solemn cases, the jury reaches a verdict and, if a conviction arises, the Sheriff determines sentence. The maximum penalty for solemn cases is five years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. For summary cases, the Sheriff reaches a verdict and, if a conviction arises, determines the sentence. The maximum penalty that may be imposed (in most circumstances [note 2]) is one year’s imprisonment and/or a £10,000 fine.
- The Justice of the Peace courts. These deal with the less serious crimes, such as speeding, shoplifting and certain types of breach of the peace. They are chaired by a Justice of the Peace or “lay magistrate” who has been appointed from the local community and trained in criminal law and procedure. They can impose custodial sentences of up to 60 days and fines up to £2,500.
Issues raised during routine validation checks of the 2021-22 data mean we are currently unable to provide the usual breakdown of convicted persons by court type. An updated version of this bulletin and tables including this information will be provided in due course once these issues have been resolved.
Notes for Section 4. People convicted in court
Note 1. In a sheriff solemn court, the jury determines whether an accused is guilty or not and the sheriff determines sentence. In a sheriff summary court, the sheriff determines both whether an accused is guilty or not and, if guilty, the sentence.
Note 2. The court can sentence up to an additional six months where there is a bail aggravation on the charge, and Sheriff Court fines can be higher than £10,000 where there is legislative provision for this in relation to a specific offence.
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