2. Main findings: Repeat non-court disposals
Changes were introduced as a result of the Criminal Proceedings Act 2007 and these were collectively known as the Summary Justice Reform. They were designed to take less serious cases out of the justice system at an earlier stage before going to court and improve the efficiency of court processes. These non-court disposal (direct measure) options are used to deal with less serious offences, and include both police and COPFS disposals.
This section provides statistics on the repeat numbers of non-court disposals for individuals within a year after they were given an initial non-court disposal. Two measures are presented, the repeat non-court disposal rate, which is the percentage of individuals who are given a further non-court disposal within a year of receiving a police or COPFS disposal, and the average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual. These measures are analogous to the reconviction rate and average number of reconvictions per offender. This section does not include convictions and reconvictions dealt with in court, as the non-court dataset is independent of the court convictions dataset.
2.1 Police disposals
The following non-court disposals are available to the police when dealing with a case directly:
- 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;
- Formal Adult Warnings are for minor offences where a warning letter is issued to the individual and were in force until 11th January 2016, when they were replaced and extended by Recorded Police Warnings which cover a wider range of offences.
- Actions which are used specifically for juveniles (aged 8 to 17) such as Restorative Justice Warnings and Early and Effective Interventions (EEIs).
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 motor vehicle offences. Also note that fixed penalty notices for Covid restriction offences are not included in this publication. More information is available in Annex D of the latest Criminal Proceedings publication.
The repeat non-court disposal rate for all police disposals in 2018-19 was 18% (Table 19).
Repeat non-court disposals for Early and Effective Interventions increased slightly over the past year.
The repeat non-court disposal rate for Early and Effective Interventions (EEIs) increased slightly over the past year by 0.5 percentage points from 22.2% in 2017-18 to 22.7% in 2018-19. The rate has remained relatively similar in the past six years. The average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual decreased slightly from 0.39 to 0.37 (Table 15).
Repeat non-court disposals for Recorded Police Warnings showed a slight increase over the past year.
The repeat non-court disposal rate for Recorded Police Warnings increased slightly in the past year from 15.8% in 2017-18 to 16.3% in 2018-19. This is second year in a row this has increased since they've become widely used. The average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual also increased slightly in the past year from 0.21 to 0.22 (Table 15).
Repeat non-court disposals for ASBFPNs increased over the past year.
The repeat non-court disposal rate for ASBFPNs increased by 0.8 percentage points from 18.6% in 2017-18 to 19.4% in 2018-19. The average number of repeat non-court disposals also increased slightly over the past year from 0.28 to 0.30 (Table 15). Despite these increases in the past year, both measures had decreased in the five previous years and they are now much lower than they were five or more years ago. It should also be noted that the cohort size is much lower than it was historically, with the cohort size of 7,619 now about a sixth of the size it was at its highest level of 48,241 ten years ago in 2009-10. The decrease in cohort size may be due to Police Scotland issuing revised guidance around the use of ASBFPNs, and there may be some displacement by the use of Recorded Police Warnings in the past year.
The highest repeat non-court disposal rates were for Formal Adult Warnings which are given to a relatively small number of individuals.
Of all the individuals given a non-court disposal (by the police or COPFS) in 2018-19, those given a Formal Adult Warning had the highest repeat non-court disposal rate of 36.0%. However, they are now only given to a small number of individuals. Formal Adult Warnings were replaced by Recorded Police Warnings (for offences prior to 11th January 2016), so they are not directly comparable with previous years (Table 15).
2.2 Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) disposals
These non-court disposals were available to COPFS over the period covered by this bulletin:
- Fiscal fines of between £50 and £300;
- Compensation orders of up to £5,000;
- Fixed penalties of between £50 and £300, generally issued for motor vehicle offences.
- Fiscal warnings
There are further actions that COPFS 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). More information is available in Annex D of the Criminal Proceedings publication.
The repeat non-court disposal rate for COPFS disposals was 15% in 2018-19 (Table 19). Between 2008-09 and 2018-19, all COPFS disposals have seen a decrease in the repeat non-court disposal rate and the average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual (Table 16).
Over the past year, there was a mixed picture for COPFS disposals. Some saw a decrease and some saw an increase in measures of repeat non-court disposals.
Of those individuals given a COPFS disposal in 2018-19, those given a Fiscal Fine or a Fiscal Combined Fine with Compensation had the joint highest repeat non-court disposal rate (18.7%). They also had the joint highest average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual (0.24). These figures were virtually unchanged for Fiscal Fines since last year. However, the repeat rate for Fiscal Combined Fine with Compensation had increased by 3.3 percentage points from the previous year and the average number of repeat disposals increased by 26%, although both of these measures are still relatively low compared to other years over the past ten years (Table 16).
Individuals given a Fiscal Fixed Penalty had the lowest repeat non-court disposal rate (5.2%) and the lowest average number of repeat non-court disposals per individual (0.06). Both of these measures were almost identical to last year (Table 16).
For Fiscal Compensation Orders, the repeat non-court disposal rate of 13.1% in 2018-19 was 1.2 percentage points higher than the figure of 11.9% in 2017-18. the average number of repeat non-court disposals increased from 0.14 to 0.16 in the same period. These latest figures are still relatively low and much lower than they were a decade ago, with the repeat non-court disposal rate seven percentage points lower than it was in 2009-10 and the average number of repeat non-court disposals was 43% lower (Table 16).
Fiscal Warnings have been included from where we have data of sufficient quality from 2011-12 to the latest year of 2018-19. The repeat non-court disposal rate decreased over the past year by 0.3 percentage points from 12.1% in 2017-18 to 11.8% in 2018-19. The average number of repeat non-court disposals was 0.15 in 2018-19, the same as the year before (Table 16).
Fiscal Work Orders (FWOs) were introduced across Scotland in April 2015. The process of recording these disposals is being investigated for the Criminal Proceedings publication. Repeat non-court disposal statistics for FWOs will not be available until this investigation has concluded.
2.3 Characteristics of individuals given non-court disposals
Table 17 shows the repeat non-court disposal rate and average number of repeat non-court disposals from 2008-09 to 2018-19 by sex and Table 18 shows them by age. In Tables 17 and 18, all the types of non-court disposal are combined together. Table 19 shows the percentage of individuals given a repeat non-court disposal in 2018-19 for each type of non-court disposal, by age and sex.
17.0% of males who received a non-court disposal in 2018-19 were given another non-court disposal within a year, compared to 14.2% of females (Table 17). Note that this gap is narrower than reconviction rates for court disposals (Table 2). The figure had been decreasing for males in each of the previous five years, whereas they were relatively stable prior to that. The average number of repeat non-court disposals for males has decreased in the past decade by 38% from 0.39 in 2009-10 to 0.24 in 2018-19. Repeat non-court disposals for females over the past six years have been relatively stable, ranging within 0.5 percentage points of each other. The average number of repeat non-court disposals for females has decreased over the past decade by 14% from 0.21 to 0.18.
As with reconvictions, under 21s had the highest repeat non-court disposal rate in 2018-19 of 20.8% and over 40s had the lowest with a figure of 12.9% (Table 18). The repeat non-court disposal rate was similar for the over 21 to 40 age groups, ranging from 16.0% to 16.7%. Repeat non-court disposals for all age groups changed little between 2017-18 and 2018-19. Both measures of repeat non-court disposals are lower than they were a decade ago, with a notable 40% decrease in the average number of repeat non-court disposals for the under 21 age group.