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Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2016-17

Published: 27 Feb 2018 09:30

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

The total number of people proceeded against in Scottish courts fell by eight per cent to 107,338 in the year to 2016-17, according to National Statistics published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician today. This is similar to the fall in the number of people convicted, down eight per cent to 92,334.

This continues the general downward trend of the last ten years and contrasts the short term rise in court activity between 2012-13 and 2014-15. The decline in convictions in 2016-17 was driven by falls in speeding (down 11%), crimes against public justice (down 11%), breach of the peace, use of mobile phone offences (down 35%) and common assault (down 7 per cent).

Other statistics in the report show that the number of people convicted for sexual crimes fell by 11% in 2016-17 to 1,037 convictions from 1,163 in 2015-16. This is the lowest number of sexual crime convictions in five years, although levels remain 37% higher than in 2010-11 (756 convictions). The increase since 2010-11 may, in part, reflect an increased level of reporting in the wake of high profile cases. There has been a corresponding rise in the number of people being proceeded against in court for sexual crimes, up 62% since 2010-11 from 933 proceedings to 1,510 in 2015-16, although this has also declined in 2016-17, by seven per cent.

Within sexual crimes, total convictions for rape and attempted rape decreased by seven per cent (from 105 convictions in 2015-16 to 98 in 2016-17). This compares to the number of proceedings for these crimes increasing by 16% to 251 proceedings in 2016-17.

Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence fell by three per cent in 2016-17 to 1,722 people, with the largest fall being for ‘other non-sexual crimes of violence’ (down 14%) to 163.

The number of convictions with a domestic abuse aggravator attached fell by 12% in 2016-17 to 10,830, this is the second consecutive year of decline following increases seen over the previous four years .

The number of custodial sentences given in court fell by eight per cent in the year to 2016-17 (from 13,766 in 2015-16 to 12,690). This is the lowest level since 2007-08.

The use of short custodial sentences has fallen over the last decade. The proportion of sentences under three months in length fell by two percentage points in 2016-17 to 28%, down from 50% in 2007-08. In 2016-17 the average custodial sentence length, excluding life sentences, was over 10 months. This is seven per cent longer than in 2015-16, and 26% longer than in 2007-08 (eight months).

Other statistics in the report show that community sentences fell this year, down two per cent in 2016-17 to 18,600 (18,949 in 2015-16), although fines and other types of sentence declined by ten and  eight per cent respectively. Community sentences are available in any case where the offence is punishable by imprisonment and now account for a higher proportion of court sentences, 20% of the total in 2016-17 and seven percentage points higher than in 2007-08 (13%).

Over the last ten years, the average age of people convicted in court has risen. In 2007-08, 18-20 year olds had the highest conviction rate at 97 convictions per 1,000 population whereas in 2016-17 the highest rate was for those aged between 21-30 years old  (41 convictions per 1,000 population).

The publication also includes the first full year of statistics on Recorded Police Warnings, which were introduced in January 2016 by Police Scotland to deal with low level offences and to replace Formal Adult Warnings. The publication shows that there were 19,596 RPWs issued during 2016-17.

The figures released today were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.