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Report Reveals Scottish Criminal Court Proceedings

A new report by Scotland’s Chief Statistician has revealed the number of people proceeded against in criminal courts in Scotland and the nature of the crimes they have been charged with.

Fall in Number of Proceedings

According to the figures, there was a 5% fall in the number of proceedings in 2015-16, taking the total to 116,800. There was also a slightly larger fall in the number of people convicted, down 6% to 99,950.

The decline has been attributed to a fall in motor vehicle offence convictions, which is down 16% to 32,569. This is turn is apparently due to changes in Police Scotland guidelines around tackling motor vehicle offences. There were drops for each motor vehicle offence group except dangerous and careless driving, which rose by 5% from 3,414 convictions in 2014-15 to 3,572 in 2015-16.

The report also shows that the number of people convicted for sexual crimes remained broadly static in 2015-16 at 1,156 convictions (1,152 in 2014-15). This is a slowdown in the longer term rise in sexual crime convictions with levels 53% higher than in 2010-11 (756 convictions). 

According to the Chief Statistician, the increase since 2010-11, in part, reflects an increased level of reporting in the wake of high profile cases and a corresponding rise in the number of people being proceeded against in court, up 72% since 2010-11 from 933 proceedings to 1,606 in 2015-16.

Key Statistics

Other key statistics revealed by the report are:

  • Within the sexual crimes total, convictions for rape and attempted rape decreased by 16% (from 124 convictions in 2014-15 to 104 in 2015-16). This is within the context of a drop in the number of proceedings for these crimes, down 20% to 216 proceedings in 2015-16.
  • Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence rose by 1% in 2015-16 to 1,765 people, with the largest rises being for homicide (5% rise) and attempted murder and serious assault (6%) up to and 84 and 1,112 people respectively.
  • Custodial sentences fell by 2% in the year to 2015-16 (from 14,035 in 2014-15 to 13,735). This is the lowest level since 2006-07, although sentence lengths have been on the rise.  In 2015-16 the average custodial sentence length, excluding life sentences, was around nine and a half months.  This is 1% longer than in 2014-15 but 26% longer than in 2006-07 (seven and a half months).

Police Warnings

The publication also includes the first statistics on Recorded Police Warnings (RPWs)introduced in January 2016 by Police Scotland to deal with low level offences and replace Formal Adult Warnings (FAWS). The publication shows that there were 4,074 RPWs issued during January to March 2016.  Prior to the introduction of RPWs, FAWs were given to 3,355 people in 2015-16.

“Our law enforcement agencies work tirelessly throughout the year to detect, disrupt and prosecute criminals, while supporting preventative work to keep crime down to its historically low levels,” commented Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson. “This includes Police Scotland’s on-going engagement with partners across public services and the private and third sectors to ensure that, collectively, we can stay ahead of new and emerging threats, be they in private homes, public places or online.”

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