101 Non-Emergency Number

101 is the new number to contact the police when it’s less urgent than 999.

The 101 non-emergency number will make it quicker and easier for you to contact the police when you don’t need an emergency response, for example to:

speak to your local police officer

report a crime that’s already happened, such as a theft or damage to property

get crime prevention advice

make us aware of any policing issues in your area


101 provides one easy-to-remember number to contact the police wherever you are in Scotland, or elsewhere in the UK. The 101 non-emergency number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It costs a flat rate of 15p per call from both landline and mobile networks, no matter how long you are on the phone or what time of day it is.

When you dial 101, the system will determine your location and connect you to the service centre covering your area. By having one easy to remember number, 101 should make the police more accessible while reducing pressure on the 999 system.

In an emergency always dial 999 - when a life is in danger, a crime is in progress or a suspect is nearby.

You can also click on the Police Scotland link below to access their website and find out how to report minor non-urgent crimes on line.

Police Scotland

In some areas, if you have been the victim of a racial or homophobic crime, you can report it without going to a police station. This is called “Remote Reporting” or “Third Party Reporting”. This type of reporting allows you to report the matter to a third party organisation that in turn forwards it to the police. This organisation may also be able to offer support and advice to you or let you know of an organisation that can offer this support and advice. This organisation can also act as a link between the victim and the police. If you want to find out which organisations in your area offer this type of service, you can contact your local police headquarters anonymously or access police scotland’s website.

Tell the police everything you know about the case and the accused
In law someone is innocent until they are proven guilty, and so they should not be kept in police custody unless there are good reasons for doing so. The police decide whether to keep the accused in custody or to release them. That officer must know as much as possible about the case and the person.
So, if you think you know something that may be of relevance and might help them decide, you should let the police know immediately.

If you want to report the crime anonymously or give information about a crime call Crimestoppers
on 0800 555 111. If you want to find out more information about Crimestoppers, please click here.


After a crime is reported you may be interviewed to gather more information. Following this you may not hear from the police for some time. If you want to know how your case is progressing, you can contact the police (you will be told who to contact once you have reported the crime, and you will be given a crime number that you should quote to help the police find the information more easily).
Unfortunately not all cases are resolved. Sometimes no suspect is found or there is not enough evidence for the police to take further action. For some offences the police may issue a fine. This is called a Fixed Penalty Notice.

Detention of suspects
When the police believe that someone has committed a crime, they can detain that person in custody for up to twelve hours, which may in certain circumstances be extended by a further twelve hours. At the endof the time the police must release the suspect unless they believe they have enough evidence to arrest them. If they release the suspect without charging them, they may still carry on investigating the crime.

What happens when someone is arrested?
Someone can be arrested after being detained, or can be arrested straight away. For example, if the police have enough evidence that someone has committed a serious crime, they can be arrested, and taken straight to a police station.

What happens when people are released from custody?
Most people who are arrested will be released from custody quickly. Depending on the nature of the crime, if the police know who they are, where they live and consider that they will not present a risk, they may be released once they have had their photographs, fingerprints and DNA samples taken.

Decision to prosecute

If the police think there is enough information to take a case to court, they will report the case to the Procurator Fiscal (PF) often just called the Fiscal. The PF may decide to take the case further, or to take no further action. Once a case has gone to the PF it is no longer the responsibility of the police. You can still ask the police about progress and they will tell you that that a report has now gone to the PF. You can then contact the PF for further information.

The Procurator Fiscal is the public prosecutor in Scotland. The PF is in charge of deciding whether someone should be prosecuted and what court the case should be heard in. The prosecution has the 'burden of proof' which means that they need to present enough evidence to prove 'beyond reasonable doubt' that an accused person is guilty. The PF prosecutes the crime on behalf of the Crown, and makes decisions in the public interest (see below). If the suspect is under 16, the police will usually refer the young person to the Children’s Reporter to consider the case and decide what action to take. This process is explained in more detail in the Youth Justice section of the Victims of Crime in Scotlandwebsite.

Depending on the nature of the crime, and if the police think it is important that the case is heard at court quickly, the person may be released on an Undertaking often called police bail. After the police arrest someone they may release them from the police station if the person signs a document undertaking (promising) to come to court on the date the police have given them. They must agree to other conditions such as not committing any other crimes. This means they will promise to attend court when told to (usually within two or three weeks). They must also agree to certain conditions they must not commit any further crimes, and must not interfere with witnesses. This is often called being bailed from the police station, but another term for this is liberation, or liberation on undertaking.


Why someone may not be released
Depending on the crime, or if the police think the person may commit more crimes, or will be a risk to an individual, or to the public, they may be held in custody until the next court day (or over the weekend, if they were arrested on a Friday). If so, the police will prepare a custody report for the PF for the next day. When the accused appears in court they are entitled to apply for bail and, unless the Fiscal can argue that there are strong reasons why the person should not be released, they will be given bail (released) until the trial. Reasons why someone may not get bail include a serious chance that the accused will commit more crimes, abscond, or is a danger to witnesses, or other members of the public.


What to do if you are worried about the accused being released
If the Procurator Fiscal knows about any concerns you have, they may be able to ask the court for some special conditions for bail. Tell the police officer you are dealing with or the Fiscal or your lawyer about any concerns as soon as possible. If the Fiscal does not know of your concerns, they can’t tell the court.

Suspects released on bail, will be told not to interfere with you, or any other witnesses, in any way. They must not behave in a way that causes, or is likely to cause, alarm or distress to you or any other witness. Sometimes (special) conditions will be attached to their bail. For instance, the accused could be told that they are not allowed to enter a certain shop, or go to a particular place. If the person does approach or bother you, you must tell the police straight away as they can arrest the person if they are breaking their conditions of bail.

What happens before a court case

Witness Interviews by the Procurator Fiscal (precognition)
Sometimes the PF or someone on their behalf, known as a precognition officer, speaks to some or all of the witnesses individually about the case and the evidence they will give. This is called a precognition investigation interview, or precognition for short. It often takes place at the Fiscal’s office, and is a chance to make sure the Fiscal knows as much as possible about the case. You might also be asked for a precognition by the defence solicitor.


Witness Interviews by Defence Solicitors (precognition)
If someone is accused of a crime, they will usually have a lawyer to help them. This lawyer will act on their behalf in any court proceedings and is known as the defence. It is the defence solicitor’s job to represent the accused.The defence interview can be arranged for a time and a place of your choosing, within reason. If you wish to be accompanied by someone when you are interviewed this can be arranged (as long as they are not a witness in the same trial).

Many people worry that they might help the person who committed the crime if they tell the defence solicitor anything. However, speaking to the defence solicitor can be helpful, as it will let the solicitor know what evidence there is against their client (the accused) and help them give the best advice. Sometimes this might be to advise the accused to plead guilty, thus avoiding a trial.
If you have been a victim of a crime you might get a letter from the defence solicitor asking to talk to you. This is called a precognition interview, or precognition for short, and is a routine part of proceedings.Defence solicitors often employ people to take precognitions for them, called precognition agents. The Law Society for Scotland, (the governing body for lawyers in Scotland), has rules about the use of precognition agents and their conduct. For more information about the Law Society visit The Law Society of Scotland website.

The defence may also question you in court if there is a trial and you are called as a witness.


Receiving a Witness Citation
You may have been asked to be a witness because you:

Have been a victim of crime, have seen, heard or know something in connection with a crime or have information about someone accused of a crime.

The letter that tells you where and when to go to court is called your citation. You may feel anxious about appearing in court but advice, assistance and support services are available for witnesses. Visits can be arranged in advance to help witnesses become more familiar with the courtroom. It is important not to ignore the citation. If you do not turn up at the correct time and place, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.

Special arrangements can sometimes be made for elderly, disabled or vulnerable witnesses. You can contact the procurator fiscal who called you to give evidence if you have any questions, concerns or special requirements.
More information about this stage is available here


Can I visit the Court beforehand to have a look around?
The Witness Servicewill be able to arrange for you to have a look around a court building and an empty courtroom and also explain the different procedures that can happen. Most witnesses find this extremely helpful and it can put your mind at ease. The Witness Service is provided by Victim Support Scotland a service is providedin all Sheriff and High Courts in Scotland. Their helpline is 0345 60 39 213.

What happens at court

Getting a case ready for court can take some time. This is because it is important for everyone that the case has been properly prepared and that all the information is accurate. There are various steps that may take place in the court process. More information on pleading is available here.

There are three kinds of courts to deal with different types of crime. The differences are explained below along with a table that explains who presides over the court and sentencing powers:


Justice of the Peace Courts
These criminal courts replaced District Courts. They deal with less serious criminal cases and road traffic cases. The judge is called a Justice of the Peace (sometimes shortened to JP). Normally the maximum fine this court can give is £2,500 and the longest prison sentence is 60 days. The largest Justice of the Peace Court is in Glasgow. Glasgow also has Stipendiary Magistrates, who can consider more serious cases. They have the same sentencing powers as Sheriffs in summary cases.


Sheriff Court
The Sheriff Court involves summary and solemn trials. The Judge is a qualified lawyer, known as a Sheriff, who must have at least 10 years legal experience. In summary criminal cases there is no jury and the Sheriff decides whether the accused is guilty or not and then decides the sentence. In solemn criminal cases, which are more serious cases, there is a Sheriff and a jury. The jury decides whether the accused is guilty or not and the Sheriff then decides the sentence.

for summary criminal cases a Sheriff can impose up to 12 months in prison, and fines of up to £5,000

for solemn criminal cases a Sheriff can sentence the accused for up to five years in prison, and an unlimited fine 

if the Sheriff thinks that the crime deserves a higher sentence than they can pass, they can refer the case to the High Court for sentence.

OPEN - A Sheriff Courtroom Example



High Court
The High Court only deals with solemn proceedings involving a judge and a jury. The jury decides whether the accused is guilty or not and the Judge then decides the sentence. The High Court deals with the most serious cases such as murder, rape, and treason. Judges (not Sheriffs or Magistrates), sit in the High Court. In the High Court there is no limit on the length of sentence or amount of the fine that can be imposed although, the sentence for some crimes is limited by statute. The High Court also deals with all criminal appeal cases.

OPEN - A High Courtroom Example




Being a witness in court
I f you have been asked to be a witness in court, the Witnesses in Scotland website will help you. This website tells you about going to court and what to expect there. It also explains the various special measures that may be available to help vulnerable witnesses, including children, and how these can be accessed. Many witnesses will not require to use special measures but may benefit from other forms of support. You can ask the person who has called you to be a witness for advice on what can be done to help. To see a virtual tour of a court click here.

Most people feel better about being a witness if they know what to expect and have visited the court beforehand. If you are called as a witness, the Witness Service can give you help and support. The Witness Service is provided by Victim Support Scotland a service is providedin all Sheriff and High Courts in Scotland. Their helpline is 0345 60 39 213.

The Witness Service can answer questions of a general nature about what happens at court and can also arrange a court familiarisation visit. If you have been contacted by the Victim Information and Advice (VIA) service (within the Procurator Fiscal’s office), they can also arrange a court visit with the Witness Service for you.

If you would find it helpful to look at an image of a courtroom on a CD Rom or DVD, which also includes information on special measures for vulnerable witnesses and describes how they are used, ask the person citing you as a witness to let you see these.

If you are particularly concerned about entering the court building or being in the same waiting area as someone else in the case, it may be possible in some courts for a court official, the Witness Service, or Victim Information and Advice, to arrange to meet you at a particular entrance and for you to sit in a different witness room.

Otherwise, when you arrive at court, a court officer will note your attendance, direct you to the witness room and guide you into the courtroom when you are called to give evidence. Witnesses for the defence and for the prosecution (the Crown) will wait in separate rooms. You may need to wait quite a long time before it is your turn to give evidence. However, the Witness Service, Scottish Court Service or VIA will try and keep you regularly updated on what is going on.
Before you give your evidence, you will be asked to either repeat a religious oath or to agree that you promise to tell the truth. If you are a witness for the prosecution, the Procurator Fiscal (PF) or Advocate depute (An advocate or senior Procurator Fiscal who works only for the prosecution and prosecutes only in the High Court – see Procurator Fiscal will ask you about the case, and what you remember.  The defence solicitor will then ask you some questions. (If you are a defence witness, the defence solicitor will ask you questions first).

You should always say exactly what you remember. If you can’t remember, you should say that. When the lawyers have finished asking their questions, the judge or sheriff will let you know when you can leave.

More information about attending court, and what happens when you are there, is available on the Scottish Court Service and the Crown Office websites.

In a criminal case, if you have finished giving your evidence, you may want to go into the public gallery of the courtroom to listen to the rest of the case. Please remember that sometimes the court clears the public area when some witnesses are giving their evidence. You should always check with the court staff whether you are allowed into the public area after you have given your evidence.

Court outcome – what happens next

It is never possible to predict how long each court case will last. Some cases last only one day, others can go on for several days, weeks or much longer. It usually depends on how many witnesses there are and how long each witness takes to give their evidence. When the evidence of all witnesses has been heard, the judge/sheriff (or jury) must reach their verdict or make their decision.

There are three verdicts in Scotland: Guilty, Not Guilty and Not Proven

Not proven or not guilty
If the accused is found not guilty, or the charge is found not proven then the accused is free to go, and there are no further proceedings in that case. Both these verdicts mean there was not enough evidence to prove the case “beyond reasonable doubt”.

If the accused is found guilty the Judge will decide on the most appropriate sentence.There are a wide range of Sentences and options depending on the nature of the crime and the background of the person who has been convicted. Sometimes sentencing does not happen immediately after a verdict but is delayed for background reports.
If you would like to talk to someone or to have an explanation of a particular decision or sentence, you should contact the PF/VIA (or the defence lawyer if they cited you). They will give you as much information as they are allowed to. If you are claiming expenses, you will find all the details on the back of your citation. When you have completed this, you can claim from the person who cited you as a witness.

Appeal process

Only the convicted person or the prosecution can make an appeal. Victims of crime who are unhappy with the verdict or sentence can talk to VIA about how they feel and ask for a meeting with the fiscal or trial prosecutor to find out more about what happened and, if possible, the reasons for it.

Following a criminal case, a convicted person may appeal against their conviction or sentence. The court may refuse the appeal or may allow the appeal in full or part. If the appeal is allowed in full, the court may order a retrial or may acquit the accused. If the accused pleaded guilty they would normally only be able to appeal against the sentence.

If offenders appeal they can also apply for bail and may be released while waiting for the appeal to be heard (this is called ‘interim liberation’). Almost all appeals in Scotland are heard by Judges in the Appeal Court, which is based in Edinburgh. The court is able to impose a higher or lower sentence, or may confirm the original sentence.

The prosecution has more limited right of appeal. The prosecution can:

appeal against an acquittal ("not guilty" or "not proven" verdict), but only in summary cases (where there has been no jury). And this can only be on a point of law.

appeal against sentence, but only where a sentence is regarded as 'unduly lenient' (if it falls outside the normal range of sentences the judge could have considered appropriate, taking account of all the relevant factors).