Case outcomes and sentencing in Scotland


Rape and attempted rape have the highest of all acquittal rates in Scotland, at 48%, followed by sexual assault at 29%. The differences in conviction rates are very stark when compared with the average acquittal rate for crimes and offences, which is just 4% (Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2020-2021).


For many years, the conviction rate for rape and attempted rape has been the lowest of all crimes in Scotland. Between 2019-2021 and 2020-21 there was an increase in the proportion of rapes and attempted rapes prosecuted that have resulted in a conviction, from 43% to 51%, however it remains the lowest compared to all other crimes and offences. In 2020-21 the conviction rate across all crimes and offences was 91% (Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2020-2021). 


Due to the severity of the crime, a custodial sentence is the most frequently used disposal for rape and attempted rape, being imposed on 95% of those convicted. However, the proportion of people convicted for sexual crimes who were given a custodial sentenced decreased from 35% to 30% between 2019-20 and 2020-21. Rape and attempted rape also attract the longest average custodial sentence of all crime types, with the exception of a life sentence. The average custodial sentence length for rape and attempted rape is just under 7 years (Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2020-2021).