Statistical Bulletin Crime and Justice Series: Criminal Proceedings in Scottish Courts, 2006/07

Criminal Proceedings in Scottish Courts 2006-07

Annexe 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. (sections 4 to 7)

Persons 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 (see note 21) or with social work authorities' statistics on probation and community service orders. Companies, which also include other bodies corporate, Scottish partnerships and unincorporated associations, constitute less than 1 per cent of the total and references to "persons" 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.

(b) individual offenders (section 8)

In the period covered by this bulletin, each offender convicted of a crime, common assault, breach of the peace, racially aggravated conduct or harassment, firearms offences or social security offences will have been recorded by SPSA 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 (Tables 4a, 18 and 19, and section 9)

In addition to analysing persons 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 in default of payment. (The exception to this recording policy is that proceedings for breaches of social work orders - community service, probation, etc. - are included in Crime Group 6 - miscellaneous offences.) 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. Interim decisions such as deferral of sentence are also excluded.

C3. In the court proceedings statistics, the reference year used is the year in which the person's case is disposed of. So if a person pleads to and is convicted for a charge in 2003/04 but is not sentenced until 2004/05 all events are recorded as occurring in 2004/05. The age of each person is calculated as the date of sentence or acquittal. It is also possible that the offence recorded by the police may be altered as a result of the judicial proceedings, while many offences are dealt with by means other than prosecution, for example through the use of procurator or police conditional offers of fixed penalty. Children aged under 16 are generally referred to the children's hearings system rather than the courts for their alleged offending. Statistics of court proceedings are therefore not directly comparable with the recorded crime statistics.

C4. Figures for custodial sentences in this bulletin will not agree with those published in the statistical bulletin "Prisons Statistics Scotland" because they count sentences of courts while those in the prisons statistical bulletin count receptions to penal establishments. Direct sentenced receptions to penal establishments ( i.e. excluding fine defaulters) are counted differently from custodial disposals in the court proceedings statistics for 2 main reasons. Firstly, in the case of backdated sentences if, after backdating, it is found that the custodial sentence has expired, neither the warrant nor the person sentenced will be taken to prison and thus a reception will not be counted though the sentence will be included in the court statistics. Secondly, if a person is given one or more custodial sentences on each of 2 separate sets of charges from the same court on the same day, this will be counted as 2 custodial sentences in the court statistics but only one direct sentenced reception.

C5. 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).

C6. Most motor vehicle offences are discovered and recorded as a result of police activity rather than by being reported to the police by the public. Hence the numbers of such offences recorded are mainly determined by the strength and deployment of the police forces.

C7. The statistics dealing with recorded crime and court proceedings are not directly comparable 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. Crimes committed by children aged under 16 are also generally dealt with through the children's hearings system rather than the courts.

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