Sentencing in Scotland (also called Penalties)

If you are found guilty of a crime in Scotland, the courts will take a number of things into consideration before sentencing. The courts will look at your personal circumstances such as your age or whether you have a criminal record. The courts will also consider relevant background information – for example a report about your background and home life, which would usually be written by a social worker – any medical or psychiatric reports put to the prosecution, and any time served in custody leading up to the trial.

The courts will also consider the nature of the crime. Some crimes have a minimum sentence that the courts must administer. The severity of a sentence can also be affected by the nature of the crime, e.g. hate crimes, sexual offences.


If you are found guilty in Scotland, you may be sentenced in the following ways:

Absolute discharge

This is when the Judge decides that the accused will not be punished. The judge may have taken into consideration the nature of the crime, whether it is the accused’s first offence, and the age of the accused (whether you are very young or very old).


This is a warning to the given to the guilty person. The admonition will be recorded on that person’s criminal record.

Community Payback Order

The Community Payback Order replaces the Community Service Orders, Probation Orders and Supervised Attendance Orders.

This order is available to the courts and came into force in 2011. If you are imposed with a Payback Order, you may be ordered to carry out unpaid work in the community, or attend a programme to help with any behavioural or addiction problems.


The court may decide that you will pay compensation to your victim(s). The court will take your financial circumstances into account and you will pay any monies directly to the court, who will then deposit it to the victim(s).

Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTO)

If you have a drug misuse problem that the court deems to be serious, you might be ordered to attend drug treatment testing. This order is available in both the High and Sheriff Courts and can be used in place of a prison sentence.

Restriction of Liberty Order

This is where you will be fitted with an electronic tag. You may be subjected to a curfew and you may be ordered to not go to certain addresses or public spaces.


You may be ordered to pay money to the court. Your financial circumstances will be taken into account.


If you are given a prison sentence, the court will decide the length and terms. If you are aged between 16 and 21 years, you will be sent to a Young Offenders Institution.

Please refer to the table below to learn more about the makeup of each Scottish Court.

CourtType of JudgeJury?Sentencing Powers
Justice of the Peace CourtJustice of the PeaceNoMaximum fine: £2,500Maximum prison sentence: 60 days
Justice of the Peace Court – Stipendiary Magistrate Stipendiary Magistrate (only in Glasgow)NoMaximum fine: £5,000Maximum prison sentence: 12 months
Sheriff Court (Summary)SheriffNoMaximum fine: £5,000Maximum prison sentence: 12 months
Sheriff Court (Solemn)SheriffYesUnlimited maximum fine.Maximum prison sentence: five years (or passed to High Court)
High Court JudgeYesUnlimited maximum fine.Unlimited maximum prison sentence.

For more information, please visit the Scottish Sentencing Council website for updates and more comprehensive advice.

This page was updated on January 2017