Statistical Bulletin Crime and Justice Series: Prison Statistics Scotland: 2009-10

Statistical bulletin showing information on the Scottish prison population.

5. Notes and definitions

Coverage and data collection

28. Before April 1996, population and reception information was collected from the penal establishments via monthly manual statistical returns. In April 1996, a computerised Prisoner Records System ( PRS) was introduced by the Scottish Prison Service to enable on-line recording of information on individual prisoners.

29. In July 2004, an improved computerised information system ( PR2) was introduced. Due to the way some information is recorded on the new system, some of the tables published in earlier bulletins cannot be reproduced.

30. In 2009 there were 15 penal establishments in Scotland. Castle Huntly and Noranside merged in 2007 to form the Open Estate. In addition, there are nine legalised police cells which could be used to detain prisoners. (These tend to be located in more rural areas and are primarily used to detain prisoners temporarily for court attendance).

31. Of the 15 establishments in Scotland, 14 cater mainly for adult prisoners. There is one dedicated young offenders institution in Polmont and two other young offenders institutions are incorporated within the main prison at Cornton Vale and Perth. Due to the increase in the young offender population, Friarton Hall, a separate building which is part of Perth prison, began to be used to house male young offenders in 2006. Cornton Vale continues to be the only all female establishment in the Scottish Prison Service estate. A small number of persons aged 21 or over are received into young offenders institutions. In addition, prisoners up to the age of 23 may be kept at young offenders institutions.

Counting conventions

32. Prison receptions provide a useful indication of flows through the prison service but are not equivalent to persons received. If a person enters prison on remand or having been sentenced by one court, this is counted as one reception. Where a person receives a custodial sentence after a period on remand or while serving another custodial sentence, this constitutes a further reception. If several custodial sentences are imposed on the same person by two or more courts in one day, this counts as several receptions.

33. Direct sentenced prison receptions (this excludes receptions for fine default) are counted differently from custodial court disposals published in the Scottish Government publication Criminal Proceedings in Scottish Courts. Most of this difference can be explained by the fact that when a person is given consecutive custodial sentences for several separate sets of charges from the same court on the same day, this is counted as two custodial sentences in the court statistics, but only one direct sentenced reception.

34. The table below illustrates the difference between direct sentenced prison receptions and custodial court disposals based on the normal counting conventions, and gives an estimate of the equivalent court-derived 'receptions' using the same counting convention as prison statistics.

Comparison of direct sentenced prison receptions to court derived 'receptions': Scotland

2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
Custodial court disposals 15,614 14,785 15,012 15,079 16,714 16,686 16,875
Court derived 'receptions' 12,140 11,391 11,425 11,533 12,948 12,955 13,374
Direct sentenced receptions 12,828 12,522 12,576 12,922 13,990 14,204 14,634

Source: Scottish Government Justice Analytical Services courts proceedings database and prisons data.

Notes: Due to a change in recording for 2007-08, courts data exclude cases where the main charge is breach of social work order. Court-derived 'receptions' have been estimated by excluding multiple sets of charges on the same day.

35. Only the main crime or offence is used for persons convicted of more than one criminal act. The main crime or offence is the most serious, assumed to be that for which the longest sentence was imposed. Where sentences are to be served consecutively, the length of the sentence recorded is the sum of the sentences. For concurrent sentences, the period of the longest sentence is given. These sentences represent the period which would be served in the absence of any early release, such as Home Detention Curfew or parole.

Fine default

36. From 1996-97, fine default information includes a separate category of non-offence (non-offence receptions are contempt of court and breach of a supervised attendance order). These receptions are excluded from any calculation of average fine amount.

37. Receptions for compensation order default are included in the fine default figures as these receptions are not separately identifiable from the recorded data.

Unruly certificates

38. Children may be remanded in custody on an 'unruly certificate' under Sections 24 and 297 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975. This is where a child over the age of 14 appears before a court charged with a crime or offence and the court considers that release on bail or detention by a local authority is not appropriate because of the child's unruly character. The child may then be detained in the prison system on the authority of the court. The unruly certificate arrangements apply to children aged over 14 and, normally, under 16, although an upper age limit of 18 applies where a child is under a supervision requirement from a children's hearing.

39. The Scottish Government plans to abolish unruly certificates and a provision to repeal the legislation is included in the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill passed in Parliament in 2010.

Home Detention Curfew

40. From July 2006, prisoners became eligible for early release from custody on Home Detention Curfew ( HDC). The provisions for HDC are contained in the Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Act 2005. This allows short term prisoners assessed as presenting a low risk of reoffending, to be released on licence between two weeks and four months early. The maximum period was extended to six months in April 2008, and the scheme extended to certain categories of long-term prisoners. Offenders are subject to electronically monitored restrictions on their movements for up to 12 hours per day for the remainder of their sentence. The primary aim of HDC is to facilitate reintegration of prisoners back into the community prior to final release. However, releasing prisoners early on HDC has also resulted in some degree of reduction in the average daily prison population.

Supervision level

41. This is the internal assessment of risk in custody used by the Scottish Prison Service. Prior to April 2002, there were five security categories which could be assigned to a prisoner, from category A, the highest security level, to category D the lowest. A category of limited D was also available exclusively for life sentence prisoners who could participate in activities approved by Scottish Ministers for the purposes of suitability to be assigned security category D. In April 2002, a new prisoner supervision system, specifically designed to assist the effective management of prisoners and to enhance public safety, was implemented giving supervision levels of High/Medium/Low.

Community Justice Authorities

42. The Management of Offenders etc. (Scotland) Act 2005 established new Community Justice Authorities ( CJAs) to create a more coherent and flexible system of offender management through improved partnership working between the different agencies involved in the criminal justice system.

CJA structure


Dundee City
Perth and Kinross

South West Scotland

Dumfries and Galloway East Ayrshire
North Ayrshire
South Ayrshire

Fife and Forth Valley



Glasgow City


Aberdeen City
Eilean Siar
Orkney Islands
Shetland Islands

Lothian and Borders

East Lothian
Scottish Borders
West Lothian


North Lanarkshire
South Lanarkshire

Northern Strathclyde

Argyll and Bute
East Dunbartonshire
East Renfrewshire
West Dunbartonshire

Classification of crimes/offences

43. The classification of crimes and offences used by the Scottish Government for criminal statistics contains approximately 350 codes. The detailed offence information contained on the warrants on the Prisoner Records System is mapped to the relevant classification code using the following groupings:



(Also referred to as Violence)


Comprises murder and culpable homicide (including the statutory crimes of causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs).

Serious assault and attempted murder

Referred for short in the text as "serious assault".


Includes offences involving intent to rob.


Includes threats, extortion and cruel and unnatural treatment of children.


(Also referred to as Indecency).

Rape and attempted rape

Indecent assault

Lewd & indecent behaviour

Comprises lewd & indecent practices against children, indecent exposure.


Includes offences connected with prostitution, incest and sexual intercourse with girls aged under 16.


(Also referred to as Dishonesty)


Includes business as well as domestic premises.

Theft by opening a lockfast place

Theft of/from a motor vehicle


Other theft

Includes theft of pedal cycles.


Includes statutory fraud, except social security benefit fraud.


Includes forgery, reset and embezzlement.




Includes malicious mischief, vandalism and reckless conduct with firearms.


Crimes against public justice

Includes perjury, contempt of court, bail offences and failing to appear at court.

Handling an offensive weapon

Comprises carrying offensive weapons, restriction of offensive weapons legislation. (This crime category was previously included under the non-sexual crimes of violence group.)


Includes importation, possession and supply of controlled drugs.


Includes conspiracy and explosives offences.



Common assault

Also sometimes termed petty or minor assault

Breach of the peace



Includes offences against local legislation, Revenue and Excise Acts, Licensing Acts, Wireless Telegraphy Acts / Communication Acts.


Dangerous and careless driving

Prior to 1992 this was known as "reckless and careless driving".

Drink/drug driving

Comprises driving or in charge of motor vehicle while unfit through drink or drugs, blood alcohol content above limit and failing to provide breath, blood or urine specimens.


Includes the small number of motorway and clearway offences, as these are mostly speeding-related.

Unlawful use of vehicle

Comprises driving while disqualified, without a licence, insurance, test certificate, vehicle tax and registration and identification offences.

Vehicle defect offences

Comprises construction and use and lighting offences.


Includes parking, record of work offences, neglect of traffic directions, failing to stop after accident and mobile phone offences.

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