The number of people prosecuted in Scottish courts fell by 11% in the year to 2017-18, according to National Statistics published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician today.
The total of 95,254 proceedings compares with 107,362 in 2016-17, and around 140,000 less than 10 years ago, in 2008-09. The number of convictions obtained has seen a similar decline, from 125,893 in 2008-09, to 92,347 in 2016-17, with a further 10% fall to 82,716 in 2017-18.
Last year's decline was driven by falls in breach of the peace (down 11%), common assault (down 13%), speeding (down 12%), drugs (down 15%), and crimes against public justice (down 11%).
However there was a rise in more serious criminal cases. The number of people convicted for sexual crimes was marginally up in 2017-18, at 1,053 convictions compared with 1,040 in 2016-17, a figure 39% higher than the low point of the last decade in 2010-11 (756 convictions), although lower than the peak of around 1,160 seen in 2014-15 and 2015-16. There has been a corresponding rise in the number of people being proceeded against in court for sexual crimes, up 61% since 2010-11 from 933 proceedings to 1,502 in 2017-18, almost the same as in 2016-17.
Within sexual crimes, total convictions for rape and attempted rape continue to fluctuate, rising slightly to 107 in 2017-18. The number of proceedings for these crimes dipped slightly to 247 in 2017-18, and the conviction rate was 43%.
Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence increased by 5% in 2017-18 to 1,812 people, driven by a 5% increase in "attempted murder and serious assault convictions", and 17% and 9% increases in convictions for homicide and robbery respectively.
The number of convictions with a domestic abuse identifier attached fell by 10% in 2017-18 to 9,782, the third consecutive year of decline. The new statutory domestic abuse aggravator, used for the first time in 2017-18, was attached to 4,253 (43%) of these cases.
On sentencing, the number of custodial disposals fell by 6% in 2017-18 (from 12,705 to 11,973), the lowest level since 2008-09. However with the decline in use of short custodial sentences, the average sentence length, excluding life sentences, was over 10 and a half months, compared with eight and a half months in 2008-09.
Community sentences were down 10% in 2017-18 to 16,830, reflecting the overall decrease of 10% in the number of convictions, notwithstanding the general increasing trend in the use of community sentences since 2010-11. The decrease was driven by a 15% fall in the number of community payback orders, although there were increases in the use of other types of community sentence, with restriction of liberty orders and drug treatment and testing orders increasing by 22% and 24% respectively. Community sentences accounted for 20% of total disposals in 2017-18, compared with 14% in 2008-09. Fines and other types of sentence declined by 13% and 9% respectively.
Over the last 10 years, the average age of people convicted in court has risen. In 2008-09, 18-20 year olds had the highest conviction rate at 81 convictions per 1,000 population, whereas in 2017-18 the highest rate was for those aged between 21-30 years old (35 convictions per 1,000 population). The rate for the 31-40 age group is very similar.
Recorded police warnings, which account for about half of the minor offences dealt with by the police directly, totalled 17,291 in 2017-18, down 12% year on year. The number of antisocial behaviour fixed penalty notices fell by 28% to 11,008.