Latest quarterly criminal court figures show progress in Sheriff solemn backlog

Sep 07, 2023

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service statistical bulletin is published today providing quarterly Official Statistics on criminal case activity in Scotland. This bulletin covers the period Quarter 1 2023/24 (April - June).

The 21st QCC bulletin shows the impact of the recovery resources switch from summary to solemn that occurred on 1st April 2023 to provide 2 additional High Court and 6 additional Sheriff Solemn trial courts. The number of Sheriff Solemn evidence led trials increased by 8%, indictments concluded rose 4% and trials scheduled fell by 7% to 2,223 at the end of June 2023 compared to the previous quarter end.

Other highlights include:

  • There were 22,642 first instance criminal cases registered in Scottish courts in Q1 2023/24, which is 1% higher than in Q4 2022/23. 
  • The number of scheduled trials has risen by 2% to 28,073 as at the end of June 2023 when compared to the previous quarter end (27,406).
  • In Q1 2023/24 domestic abuse cases accounted for 22% of Sheriff Summary registrations; 27% of Sheriff Summary trials called and 33% of Sheriff Summary trials in which evidence was led.

Commenting on the bulletin SCTS Executive Director Court Operations, David Fraser, said:

“Given the progress made on the summary backlog, we switched court recovery resources from summary to solemn on 1st April, with the introduction of 2 additional High Court and 6 additional Sheriff Solemn trial courts. The impact from the resource switch shows a continued increase in concluded solemn cases.

“Solemn cases, which involve the most serious crimes, are more challenging as the long term trend of increasing case levels continued throughout the pandemic. The switch shows that solemn throughput has increased significantly.

“Since Feb 2023, the Sheriff Courts have continued to receive a higher demand for summary trials than was modelled.  This has slowed progress on the level of outstanding summary trials and we are reviewing options to address this should the higher demand for summary trials continue in future months.

"Strong collaboration across the judiciary, justice organisations, the legal profession and the third sector is helping to effectively manage court business, this will become even more important now that the solemn recovery programme has been extended.

“I am pleased to advise that figures for accused coming to court from police custody following a warrant have been added to this quarter to complement the figures already there for arrival and liberty at first appearance. This further data enhancement means that a ‘Police custody to remand’ rate can be provided for criminal first instance business which helps justice partners understand custody and remand volumes and trends. It is further evidence of the SCTS commitment to openness and transparency in data.”

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