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

Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2010-11

Annex C: Understanding the Statistics in this Bulletin

C1. Individual offenders may be proceeded against on more than one occasion; on each occasion they may be proceeded against for more than one charge. The units of analysis used in this bulletin are:

(a) the person or company proceeded against or convicted

People are counted once for each occasion on which they are proceeded against. If more than one proceeding is disposed of on the same day, each occasion will be counted separately. The statistics are therefore not directly comparable with statistics on direct sentenced receptions to penal establishments or with social work authorities' statistics on community sentences. References to "people" include companies, unless otherwise stated.

Where a person is proceeded against for more than one crime or offence, only the main charge is counted. The main charge is the one receiving the severest penalty if one or more charges are proved. If more than one charge receives the same (or a combined) penalty, then the main charge is the one judged by the police (who provide the information) to be the most serious. If no charge is proved then the one reaching the furthest stage in proceedings is the main one. A person with a charge proved is defined to be one who had a plea of "guilty" accepted, or who was proved guilty of at least one charge as a result of a trial. Throughout this bulletin, the terms "person with a charge proved", "people convicted" and "convictions" are used interchangeably.

(b) individual offender

In the period covered by this bulletin, each offender convicted of a crime or offence will have been recorded by SPSA (generally) under a unique reference number. This enables all such convictions to be linked together, so that analysis of the number of convictions per offender in any given year, or the number of their previous convictions, can be derived.

(c) individual offences

In addition to analysing people convicted by the main charge involved, data in relation to individual offences which are proved are also available.

C2. Generally only the initial outcome is included in the court proceedings statistics so that, for example, a person fined is regarded as fined even if he or she subsequently goes to prison (or a Supervised Attendance Order is imposed) in default of payment. Similarly, no account is taken of the outcome of appeals; the exception to this is for those crimes where an appeal is determined prior to publication and the conviction is quashed or the sentence is substituted. Interim decisions such as deferral of sentence are also excluded.

C3. A court can impose more than one penalty in appropriate cases. For example, a fine or an order to find caution can be imposed in addition to a more severe penalty. Equipment used in the commission of a crime or offence may also be forfeited. However, the main additional punishments are generally disqualification from holding or obtaining a driving licence and the endorsement of a driving licence. The main charge in such cases is almost always either a motor vehicle offence or the theft of a motor vehicle.

C4. In the court proceedings statistics, the reference year used is the year in which the person's case is disposed of. If a person pleads to, or is convicted for, a charge in 2008-09, but is not sentenced until 2009-10, all events are recorded as occurring in 2009-10. The age of each person is calculated as at the date of sentence or acquittal.

C5. Many offences are dealt with by means other than prosecution in court, for example through the use of procurator fiscal direct measures such as fiscal fines and compensation orders, or by police warnings and fixed penalties. Data on a range of these disposals are extracted from CHS and added to this bulletin using the same person, main charge and main penalty bases described above for court disposals.

C6. Court proceedings statistics are not directly comparable with the recorded crime statistics as a person may be proceeded against for more than one crime involving more than one victim and there is the possibility that the crime recorded by the police may be altered in the course of judicial proceedings. A crime may be recorded by the police in one year and court proceedings concluded in a subsequent year.

C7. Court custodial disposals are counted differently from the direct sentenced prison receptions (excluding fine default receptions) published in the Scottish Government Prison Statistics publications. Most of this difference is because a person given consecutive custodial sentences for several separate sets of charges from the same court on the same day is counted as two custodial sentences in the court statistics, but only one direct sentence reception.

C8. Figures for sentence lengths imposed include any element imposed for bail aggravation under section 27(1)(b) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, and under section 16 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993 (where the offender committed an offence following release from custody and prior to the end of the previous sentence period imposed).

C9. The Stipendiary Magistrates court in Glasgow generally hears less serious cases than the sheriff court and may impose up to twelve months imprisonment or a fine up to £10,000.

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