The sanctions system
The main features of the activities of the courts in 2009/10 were :
- A total of 137,000 persons were proceeded against, a decrease of 3% on last year and 8% since 2007/08.
- 88% had at least one charge proved against them or a plea of guilty accepted.
- The total number of people convicted was 120,772 persons, a decrease of 4% and nearly 10% since we reported on the 2007/08 figures.
- The number of people convicted of a nonsexual crime of violence fell by 8% from 2008/09.
- The number convicted of a sexual crime fell by 12% from 947 to 836. However, convictions for rape and attempted rape and for indecent assault rose by 32% and 8% respectively.
- The number convicted of drug crimes rose by 5%.
- The number of persons convicted for all crimes and offences per 1,000 of the
population fell slightly to 29 last year, but has been remarkably stable for the past
ten years with a figure between 27 and 32.
- The number of men convicted per 1,000 of the male population was 49.
- The number of women convicted per 1,000 of the female population was nine.
- An interesting change noted was that for the first time the peak age for convictions
of men rose from 18 to 20 years old (at 125 per 1,000 population), while
for women the age group, which has traditionally been higher, remained at last
year’s higher level of the 26 – 30 year age group (21 per 1,000 population).
The majority (60%) of all convictions resulted in a financial penalty. Excluding cases where a
company was fined, the average value of the 71,372 fines imposed by courts in 2009/10
was £217. The average value of the 1,037 compensation orders imposed was £386.
In 2009/10 there were 15,733 custodial sentences, down 7% from 2008/09. 70% of
all custodial sentences were for six months or less (including 38% for three months or less).
The average length of determinate custodial sentences in 2009/10 was 281 days, (just over
nine months), and three weeks longer than in 2008/09. For crimes of handling an offensive
weapon, the average sentence last year was 274 days.
The number of community sentences was 16,264, 9% down on last year. Community
sentences mainly comprised sentences of a probation order (8,823) or a community service
The above data is from Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2009/10. Statistical Bulletin, Crime and Justice Series. Scottish Government,
Edinburgh, 25 January 2011.
Of all those sentenced by the courts:
- 13% received a sentence of custody.
- 13% were given a community sentence.
- 60% were fined or required to pay compensation, showing a continued trend downwards in the use of the fine.
- 14% were given other sentences, such as cautions, or discharges.
Between 2008/09 and 2009/10 there have been changes in the balance of offences coming before the courts.
Compared with the year before more people were convicted of:
- Rape and attempted rape (up 32% from 41 to 54).
- Offences relating to drugs (up by 5% from 7,300 to 7,662).
Fewer people were convicted of:
- Serious assault and attempted murder (down 12% from 1,706 to 1,501).
- Robbery (down 5% from 561 to 533).
- Lewd and indecent behaviour (down 12% from 336 to 295).
- Handling an offensive weapon (down 19% from 3,541 to 2,855).
- Theft of/from a motor vehicle (down by 17% from 850 to 707).
- Shoplifting (down by 3% from 8,287 to 8,076).
- Vandalism (down by 12% from 4,131 to 3,629).
Custody was the outcome for:
- 72% of robbery convictions.
- 56% of serious assault convictions.
- 49% of housebreaking convictions.
- 32% of handling an offensive weapon convictions.
- 26% of shoplifting convictions.
Most cases are dealt with by the lower courts. District and Justices courts dealt with 50,382
cases, 42% of all persons with a charge proved (a 5% increase from last year); and the Sheriff
summary courts with 65,419 (or 54%) of the number of persons with a charge proved (5%
down from last year). Sheriff solemn cases accounted for 4,213 (3%) and the High Court
for 741 (1%) of persons with a charge proved.
Diversion from prosecution
Diversion from prosecution is used when the accused person admits the offence and the
Procurator Fiscal decides it is in the public interest not to prosecute but to take some other
action that is more likely to solve the underlying problem that led to the person committing the
offence and thus reduce harm in the future. Although previously its use has remained fairly
stable, a range of measures are now possible and, by way of illustration, the statistics provided
by the Government have now changed from Criminal Proceedings in Scottish Courts to
Criminal Proceedings in Scotland (25) to reflect the broader use of ‘disposals’ by the Crown Office
and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) as well as the more traditional use by the police.
Reference 25: Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2009/10. Statistical Bulletin, Crime and Justice Series. Scottish Government,
Edinburgh, 25 January 2011.