Statistical Bulletin: Crime and Justice Series: Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2010-11

Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2010-11

Annex B: Data Quality, Revisions and Data Processing

Data quality

B1. The data collected are subject to the errors which may arise in any large scale recording system, however effort has been made to clean up records for which key information is incongruent or missing (such as checking against case extract information provided by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS)).

B2. It is known that there may be times when the police report an offence to the procurator fiscal but, when the facts and circumstances are examined by the procurator fiscal, they decide to libel an alternative charge which may be less serious in nature and penalty. There are rare occasions when such decisions are made but unfortunately the charge is not then updated on the computerised records. Changes such as this have been made where observed; however, it is likely that some other occurrences exist which have not been amended. There is nothing to suggest that the scale of this issue is large enough to alter the overall trends reported.

B3. Information on the outcomes of court proceedings is publicly available. However, while our aim is for the statistics in this bulletin to be sufficiently detailed to allow a high level of practical utility, care has been taken to ensure that it is not possible to identify an individual or organisation and glean any private information relating to them.

B4. The police record very detailed information on statutory offences but this does not always correspond exactly to the categories used by Scottish Government. The most important example of this, in numerical terms, is an offence under section 41(1)(a) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967, which relates to "any person who assaults, resists, obstructs, molests or hinders a constable". The Scottish Government classification divides this into 3 categories - resisting arrest, serious assault and common assault, but this distinction is not made by the courts. The majority of such cases are thought to have been classed as common assault, and all the offences under this [sub]section have been so classified. As highlighted in section 3 additional information on the number of such offences (and against other Emergency Workers) has been published alongside this bulletin as background data.

B5. Following the introduction of computerisation of case recording to the sheriff courts, some difficulties were experienced by police force records offices in distinguishing court types when recording disposal information on the CHS database. Where possible those cases where the court type was incorrect have been identified and appropriate changes made to the data held in the Scottish Government Criminal Proceedings Database.

B6. Work has been taken forward to examine the reasons for a fall in the number of companies identified in the criminal proceedings database from 2008-09 onwards. This has now been resolved and it is anticipated that these numbers will be retrieved in 2012.

B7. Information on the number of cases which received a highest disposal of fiscal fine, fixed penalty, compensation order and combined fiscal fine and compensation order are presented on the Crown Office website; and have been reported in Table 1. The number of people who received these disposals as identified by CHS are also presented in that table and have been validated against the Crown Office case-level data using an intermediate data extract of Crown Office 'closed case' data.

B8. The way that Crown Office disposals are recorded in CHS was altered after summary justice reform. Previously, CHS did not consistently record when a procurator fiscal fine or fixed penalty had been issued, and when it was recorded, it was not possible to derive the relative numbers of each. CHS began to record fiscal fines and fixed penalties consistently under separate codes following summary justice reform. During the transition to the use of the new codes however, in 2008-09 and 2009-10, CHS continued to record, respectively, 2,700 and 500 pre- SJR codes representing a combination of procurator fiscal fines or fixed penalties, although it is not possible to separate the numbers of each.

B9. It is not currently possible to extract information on some of the other COPFS disposals, e.g. warnings and no actions, from CHS.


B10. The CHS, which holds information on the outcome of court proceedings, is not designed for statistical purposes. It is dependent on receiving timely information from the courts and police force records offices, while some types of outcome, e.g. acquittals, are weeded after a prescribed length of time. A pending case on the CHS is updated in a timely manner but there are occasions when slight delays happen. Recording delays of this sort generally affect high court disposals relatively more than those for other types of court, as the most complex and lengthy trials are held in the high court.

B11. The figures given in this bulletin reflect the details of court proceedings as recorded on the CHS and as provided to the Scottish Government up to the end of July 2011. Any subsequent updates on court disposals made will be incorporated into future bulletins and therefore some figures for 2010-11 (in particular those relating to the high court) are likely to be subject to minor revisions.

B12. These recording delays mean that figures for 2010-11 should be considered provisional as future bulletins may provide updates. We estimate that the 2009-10 bulletin contained a small undercount of around 300 people with a charge proved in 2009-10, around 0.2 per cent of all people with a charge proved. Since the 2009-10 bulletin was published, a small number of high court cases have been added to the court proceedings database.

B13. In all matters relating to revisions, these statistics comply with Scotland's Chief Statistician's current revisions policy:

Data processing - Bail orders

B14. Difficulties with the supply of consistent bail data due to the move to a new version of the CHS in October 2007 have now been resolved, allowing provision of offence level breakdowns again from 2009-10. However, due to these difficulties, processing of the 2008-09 bail data was carried out in isolation from bail data from previous years.

Data processing - Breach of social work orders

B15. In bulletins since 2007-08, tables 1 to 12 have been amended compared to previous years, with people having a charge proved for breach of a social work order (for example breaches of community service orders, probation orders and supervised attendance orders) excluded from the totals. Analysis has shown that the number of people with a charge proved for breaching a social work order fell by 39 per cent between 2006-07 and 2007-08 from 4,900 to 3,000. Analysis found that this sharp fall is likely to be due to a change in recording practices rather than a true fall in actual numbers.

B16. In 2006-07 and previous years, a breach of social work order had, by necessity, been recorded as a crime on its own, with no link to the previous crime which led to the imposition of the order in the first place. This was because it was not operationally possible for cases to be re-opened if a breach of the original community sentence occurred. However, the introduction of new IT systems within the courts meant that breaches could be recorded within the original case. Therefore, because (generally) only the initial outcome is included, the change in recording practice produced a fall in the numbers of breach of a social work order identified.

B17. The data that inform these statistics are collated and shared via an existing automated process from the CHS. Therefore, there was no cost to the data provider in 2010-11.

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