This report presents the findings from the Summary Justice Reform: Undertakings Evaluation. The research formed part of a wider package of work to evaluate Summary Justice Reform (SJR) in Scotland as a whole. The aim of the research was to evaluate how far the reforms to undertakings had met both the specific policy objectives as well as the overarching aims and objectives of SJR.

7 Cost Exercise


7.1 The main aim of the economic analysis was to assess whether the benefits, i.e. savings from the reforms to undertakings, are sufficient to outweigh the corresponding burdens arising from the reforms.

7.2 At the outset a cost-benefit type approach was preferred where the benefits could be quantified and monetised and then compared against the monetised increased costs associated with the reforms. As the research progressed, however, it became clear that there was a lack of reliable and available data to allow monetised values to be assigned to the benefits identified or, indeed, to produce an estimate of the costs associated with the reforms. This meant that a full economic analysis was not possible.

7.3 As a result, the cost exercise instead had to focus on identifying and summarising what data items would be needed in order to conduct a full economic analysis to allow this to be carried out at a future date, if desirable.

Data Items Needed for a Full Economic Analysis

7.4 The evaluation suggests that the following data items would be required to allow a full economic analysis to be undertaken:


  • staff time and costs of completing enquiry and writing reports in time for court attendance, with comparison between custody, undertaking and liberation awaiting citation; and
  • staff time and costs (printing/postage) spent executing warrants for people who fail to appear on undertakings and comparable costs for those who are cited but fail to appear.


  • staff time and costs (printing/postage) of issuing citations; and
  • staff time and costs for changing case marking prior to first appearance in court
  • staff time and costs associated with churn, in terms of staff time spent preparing for cases on multiple occasions and appearance at court.


  • costs of individual court diets to allow a calculation of additional costs brought about by churn for undertakings cases;
  • estimate of time wasted in court and by court staff due to failure to appear by accused; and
  • estimate of time wasted in court and by court staff due to cases not proceeding as a result of alternative case marking ahead of the court appearance;

Prison Service

  • staff time and costs for transporting accused held in police custody to first hearing in court;
  • costs for harsher sentences (i.e. custodial costs) being used for breach of undertakings; and
  • comparative costs of harsher sentences for those who fail to appear on citation or on bail.

7.5 Although this list of data items, if available, would allow for a cost-benefit comparison to be made for undertakings (compared to citation and custody) those consulted as part of this work were keen to emphasise that in many scenarios it was not possible to describe a 'typical' cost since the range of experiences 'on the ground' was vast between cases. Due to the complexities and variance in case handling, any future cost estimates are likely to be unreliable and possibly misleading if generalised too far.

7.6 That said, only if these can be estimated by partner agencies can any indicative cost and benefit impacts be compared to determine whether the benefits associated with the reforms to undertakings are sufficient to outweigh the costs.


Email: Carole Wilson

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